Monday, March 18, 2013

Ch155 Family comes first

The flower of the Catalpa tree
          Violet tried not to smile, but Victor looked so darn cute, like a pouting, petulant little brat glaring at her, his cell in hand still unanswered.
          “Victor, answer it. Didn’t you tell me family comes first? Well, you can’t ignore your wife…”
          “Ex-wife,” he growled.
          “Yes, Catherine, and now Simon’s calling. They must need you,” she said, soothingly. She brushed his tousled hair off his forehead then kissed him. “Please? Then we can enjoy the rest of our day. We can spend it… you know… making out like teenagers.”
 She giggled and kissed him again, but this time he wouldn’t let go when she tried pushing away. He kissed her until she was quite breathless all the while Doctor my eyes  played over and over until it stopped.

“For a man worried about impending doom, you’re not at all curious what trouble your family may be in?” Violet asked, trying to wiggle away which only made Victor clamp his hands on her butt and pull her closer. “Victor! What are you doing?”
“If you can’t tell, then it’s been too long,” he muttered, just as the cell went off again, this time with a familiar tune. “They’re killing me!”
“They’re just trying to tell you something important,” Richard chimed in. “You really ought to answer it.”
“Who’s this now? Not Ronnie?” Violet asked.
“That is Ronnie,” Victor said.
"Whatever happened to little red corvette? That used to be his ringtone. I used to like it. Of course, I love Rush rush, too."
"Suppose he likes this one better," he snarled, putting the phone to his ear. “Not a great time, Ronnie, so make it quick.”
“Dad? Did Mom call?”
Victor heard his son’s usually jubilant voice sounding strained and he immediately released Violet and stood up. “Ronnie, what wrong?”
“Grandma, she had a heart attack,” he said.
“Marty? Is she…”
“She’s still alive, but…I dunno,” he said, his voice cracking. “You in the city, Dad? Can you give me a ride back home?”
“I…no, I’m not. Wait…what are you doing in the city? Shouldn’t you be at school?”
“Yeah, about that…uh…we’ll talk when I get back home. I'll catch a ride with someone. No worries.”
“Where’s your car, Ronnie?” Victor asked, a feeling of dread running up his spine.
“Um…back in PA. I’ll explain later. I gotta get going,” Ronnie said and the line went dead.
“I’m gonna kill him,” Victor mumbled, but no sooner had he said that, his phone rang again. “Simon, what’s up?”
“Dad, did Mom call you yet?”
“She did, but I…I didn’t take the call,” Victor said, now feeling like a louse for ignoring her.
“Understandable,” Simon said, and he didn’t sound like himself either. Instead of the detached, cool, almost arrogant tone he normally had, he sounded agitated, perhaps even afraid. “Grandma had a heart attack.”
“Ronnie just called, yes. How is she?”
“It was mild, supposedly. Mom can’t get anything out of her doctor,” Simon irritably said.
“Why the hell not? She runs the frickin’ place!”
“No, Grandma’s not at St. Bartholomew. She insisted on going to CMC in Meridale.”
“Why!? It’s further and a worse hospital and your mother….”
“No doubt it’s because of Mom. I’m thinking Grandma didn’t want Mom making decisions for her. You know how they are.”
Victor ran frustrated fingers through his hair, mussing it worse than before. “But at a time like this…”
“She’s asking for you, Dad.”
“Your mother?”
“No, Grandma,” Simon said.
“What for?”
“She knows you’re the only one who will stand up to Mom. She knows you'll be on her side. You know that Mom wants to put Grandma in a home, right?”
“Oh, hell no! Are you kidding?”
“I think Grandma may want to change her will and you’re her lawyer.”
“What makes you say…no, I know why. This couldn’t come at a worse time.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Victor glanced at Violet, a miserable expression on his face. “I’m not exactly home. I’m upstate at Vladimir’s.”
There was silence for a moment. “Are you with someone?” Simon asked, and there was no denying the hopeful note in his voice.
“Yes, I am,” he replied.
“Hot damn, Dad! That's great, bring her along so I can meet her,” Simon said without missing a beat.
“Are you serious?” Victor said, completely exasperated. “Wait, you’re going home?”
“Yeah, I am. Just got on the road. Be home in a few hours.”
“What about school?”
“Family comes first. You taught me that,” Simon said.
 "Would you do your brother a favor and pick him up on the way?" Victor asked.

“In Pennsylvania???" Simon shouted.
 "No, for some unknown reason he's in the city without his car. Know anything about that?" Victor asked sharply.
Simon cleared his throat. "I'll get him, but you will come, Dad. Please? We need all the help we can get. Grandma’s as stubborn as Mom is, remember?”
“Simon...” Victor said, glancing at Violet who grabbed his hand and nodded.
“Victor, we should go. You can always bring me back here. Aunt Lucy wants you to,” Violet said.
“Is that her? Is that your lady friend?”
“Yes, Simon.”
“Sorry to interrupt your good time, but she’ll have more fun after she meets me.”
“You suddenly sound like Ronnie,” Victor quipped.
“Please! Don’t even kid about that! Dad, come home before they start world war III. See ya soon, okay?”
“If we leave within the hour, we should be there at about the same time as you,” Victor said, reluctantly. Violet smiled and kissed his cheek.
“Awesome! Can’t wait to meet her,” he said. “Bye, Dad.”
“Bye, Simon,” he said, before putting the phone back in his pocket. He sighed. “Aunt Lucy is not going to be happy about this. Pretty sure she wanted us to stay longer.”
“Next time, if you bring me next time,” Violet said with a shrug. “Who knows? You might want to bring Chen…”
Violet didn’t get to finish that thought. Victor found out long ago that the best way to shut up a woman was to kiss her soundly. Worked every time and without complaint!
“What do you mean you’re not taking me home first?” Violet said. “I can’t go to the hospital to see someone I don’t even know.”
“Violet, Marty’s asking for me and she’s already waited this long. God forbid she has another attack before I get there. I’d never forgive myself. Your house is out of the way so it would take me longer to drop you off and come back.”
“Oh... well,” she said, worrying her hands fretfully. “If you think it’ll be all right with your family. I could stay in the lobby and wait for you."
 “Nonsense! I want you to meet my boys. Besides, Marty will love you and you will love her. She’s a pip!”
Violet made a face, as they drove on. “But, Victor, she’ll be ill and weak and probably cranky, and she won’t want some stranger seeing her probably at her worst,” she said.
Victor tried not to think of Marty like that, but he knew it could easily be true. Marty was getting on in years, so there was no saying what could happen. We, none of us, live forever, after all. He shook such depressing thoughts aside, though, and took Violet's own advice to only think good thoughts. 
“You don’t know Marty. She’s a tough cookie. She’s not leaving this planet until she’s good and ready, and she’s not near to ready,” he insisted.
“Okay, but if she so much as…I don’t know…looks at me funny, I’m leaving. I won’t distress her!” she said adamantly.
“All right. As it is she probably won’t be allowed too many visitors anyway,” he conceded just as they pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. He grinned when he spotted his sons walking to the door. “Just in time. There they are.”
“Hey, who’s that with Dad?” Ronnie said, gaping open-mouthed as his father waved at them as did the pretty lady next to him. “She looks very familiar.”
“That’s his lady love; probably the one he told us about at the Grand Canyon, so behave yourself. Don’t want you scaring her off,” Simon told him.
“Awesome! Come on, let’s go meet her!” Ronnie said, sprinting across the parking lot, weaving in and out of parked cars until they reached their father’s pickup truck at the far end of the lot. “Hey, Dad!”
Victor had barely exited the car before being enveloped in strong arms. “Hey, Ronnie,” he said, hugging him back.
Simon on the other side, opened the door for Violet. He blinked several times before he realized he was staring. He held out his hands to help her down just as Victor always did by lifting her to the ground. “Hello, Ms. Bennett,” he said. 
She stared back at him, taken aback. “You remember me?”
“Sure do,” Simon replied, grinning. “You used to cheer for me every time I was up to bat or caught a fly ball, at least when I was playing against your son’s team.”
She smiled albeit nervously.
“OMG!” Ronnie shouted, staring at Violet. “You’re Sophie’s mom!”
Simon groaned. “We’re not texting at the moment, Dummy. You’re a big boy now, so use real words,” he snapped.
Ronnie either didn’t care or wasn’t listening. He did, however, push his brother out of the way and hugged Violet right off her feet. “I love you, Ms. Bennett,” he said.
Violet squeaked like a trodden mouse.
“Ronald, put her down right this minute!” Victor said. “What in the world are you thinking?”
“But this is Ms. Bennett, Dad,” Ronnie said, setting her carefully on her feet before gazing at her as if she was a priceless piece of art. “She’s Sophie’s mom and she’s awesome. She brought cookies for my fifth grade field trip.”
"I can't believe you remember that!" Violet said, laughing.
"You're like totally awesome. Your cookies, too!" Ronnie said. 
“I know she is,” Victor said, slipping his arm possessively around her. “Violet, I’d like you to meet my sons.”
“Hello, Ronnie. Hello, Simon,” she said, gazing from one to the other. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen two more handsome boys…silly me! You’re not boys at all anymore. I remember when you were this high.” She held her hand out at waist high, then moved it up a bit. “Or maybe it was more like this high.”
Simon laughed. “I’m surprised you recognize us then.”
“Your father has about a million pictures of you.”
“Dang, Dad, you coulda told us you had such an awesome girlfriend,” Ronnie grumbled.
“Dad’s embarrassed by you, evidenced by this unseemly display, so why would he tell you about her?” Simon snidely said.
“Shut it!” Ronnie snarled, punching his brother on the arm, who promptly punched him back. “He didn’t tell you either!”
“Guys!” Victor said, shaking his head and turning to Violet. “Why did I want you to meet my boys?”
“I couldn’t tell you,” she replied, giggling. “Maybe ‘cause they’re so cute?”
“That can’t be it,” he mumbled. “Come on, guys. Marty’s waiting.”
As they made their way through the large parking lot, Violet was inundated with questions from both boys, neither of them giving her enough time to answer one before the next was put to her.
“Guys, leave her alone,” Victor said. “You’re gonna scare her away.”
“I don’t scare that easy, Victor,” she said. "They just are curious."
“So, have fun at Aunt Lucy and Uncle Vladimir’s?” Simon asked, a sly smirk playing on his lips. "Rather romantic there, isn't it?" Over her head Victor glared at him.
“Oh, yes! We were on Uncle Vladimir’s boat when you called,” Violet said. “It was so beautiful! But we had to leave to come here.”
“Sorry this had to ruin your romantic getaway,” Ronnie said, smirking at Simon.
“Victor promised to take me back some day, maybe in spring.”

"That'll be nice," Ronnie said, winking at his father, who in turn scowled.
“I doubt you remember this, Ms. Bennett,” Simon started to say as he held the door of the hospital open for her, “but we first met you at the fireman’s carnival.”
Violet and Victor exchanged smiles. “Oh, I remember,” she said, stepping inside.
“Oh, yeah! Dad practically bought everything there. Man, that stuff was good. Especially the cookies.”
“We had so much we all got sick. Was worth it though,” Simon said, grinning.
“Yes, I admonished your father for allowing you to eat so much at once. Horrible thing to let you do,” Violet said, frowning at Victor as if it had only just happened, instead of more than ten years ago.
“Back then Dad still felt guilty for abandoning us, so we could get away with murder,” Simon bragged, although sounding slightly bitter.
“He still feels guilty,” Violet said, stopping in front of the elevator and pushing the button.
Ronnie and Simon stared at her, seemingly stunned. They then exchanged looks before glancing at their father then back to her.
“Your father loves the both of you more than you’ll ever know, but the silly man still doesn’t think that it is enough. He believes you’ll never forgive him for the divorce which he still believes is entirely his fault and whatever else happened so long ago, and he surely won’t forgive himself, no matter what I say. He’s a hopeless cause I suppose, but we still like him, don’t we?” she then glanced up at Victor and smiled.
Just then the elevator doors opened and several people came out. After it was empty, Violet stepped in first and when she turned around she frowned, staring at the others. “Aren’t you coming up?” she asked, “Should I stay in the lobby?”
Victor stepped in and placed an arm around her. “Of course not, my love,” he said quietly, kissing her cheek.
She smiled as the other two stepped inside and proceeded to stare at her as if they’d never seen anything quite like her. “Don’t look like that,” she said, misinterpreting their expressions. “We just have to think good thoughts and your grandmother will be fine. I know she will.”
Victor watched his two sons gape at Violet, their expressions somewhere between rapture and astonishment, and he knew without asking they had instantly fallen in love with her. He fleetingly wondered if he’d have to fight them off!

Much to his annoyance a ghostly laugh filled his head and Richard said, "They are good looking boys, she said so, and I always thought Violet had a bit of a cougar inside her. We'll soon find out, won't we?"

Victor ground his teeth and watched the numbers light up as they rose to the proper floor, that feeling of doom back in full force.

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