“Hey, you smell that?” Ronnie excitedly said, as he stepped into Violet’s house. “She made breakfast for us!”
Simon took a deep breath with his eyes closed. “Oh my God… that smells awesome.”
“I’m gonna kill her,” Victor muttered as he pushed past his sons and followed the enchanting smells and Violet’s singing to the kitchen, his boys at his heels.
“Good morning!” Violet said, potholder-hands holding a tray of steaming blueberry muffins. “You’re right on time.”
“Holy sh…I mean… wow,” Ronnie said, staring at the food laden table.
“Have you ever seen so many good things to eat on one table?” Simon muttered.
“Only at Thanksgiving,” Ronnie mumbled. He tore his eyes from the table and pushed his father away from Violet. He bent down and kissed her cheek. “Thanks, Mom!”
“Uh…you’re welcome, Ronnie,” she replied, giggling at Victor’s annoyed expression.
“I just love her, Dad!” Ronnie said, grabbing the muffins and sprinting back to the table.
“Ronnie, that’s hot!” Violet shouted.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Bennett, he has thermal hands,” Simon said. More sedately than his brother, he kissed Violet on the opposite cheek and smiled at her and added, “Really starting to like you.”
“I…I like you, too, Simon,” she said, feeling her cheeks turn pink and not because she was standing in front of a hot oven. When he went to join his brother at the table, both heaping food onto their plates, she smiled up at Victor. “Good morning, Grumpy boy.”
He stared at her, frowning . “I’m very angry with you, Violet.”
“No, you’re not,” she replied, taking her oven mitts off, laying them on the counter. She looked around Victor, checking to make sure the boys weren’t paying them any attention then she placed her hands on his chest, went on tip-toe and kissed him.
Slightly taken aback, he blinked stupidly for a minute, then remembered he was supposed to me mad. “Violet, didn’t I tell you not to go to all this trouble?” he said.
“Indeed you did.”
“So, why did you disobey me?”
She cocked her head to the side and waited. “Did I hear that right?”
“Okay, not obey, just…why didn’t you listen to me?”
“My question for you is…why would you think I would? Rather silly of you,” she retorted, then she giggled and kissed him again.
Completely flummoxed, he opened his mouth and shut it a few times. “You’re…awfully…jovial this morning. It can’t be making breakfast that put you in this great mood, can it?” he asked.
“Could be. Could also be I’m still happy about…” she lowered her voice and added, “last night.”
He made a weird face and wondered if Richard’s ghost gave her the fun time he wish he had been able to do. He recalled all too clearly the disaster which was his attempt to seduced Violet. As he bounded up the stairs, Violet securely in his arms, he thought—like the eternally optimistic idiot that he was—that she would let him finish what they hadn’t done over the weekend at the bed and breakfast. He could dream!
He had stepped into Kenny’s old room forgetting that there were at least a half dozen Halloween costumes in various stages of completion, strewn on the bed, hanging from the wrought iron canopy and covering every other surface in the room. No place to get busy here.
Then he went into Sophie’s room, but he sensed Violet tensing. “This is still her room, Victor. It wouldn’t be right,” she said.
No, of course not. He had been about to go into Violet’s bedroom, but even he—the supreme non-believer—could feel Richard’s ominous presence and he turned away from the door before even entering it. He slumped down the stairs fleetingly wishing for a forth bedroom in this little farmhouse and wondering when he was going to get some from this maddeningly elusive woman.
“Not tonight, that’s for damn sure, Cowboy,” Richard said, a definite smirk in his tone.
Victor growled, but then Violet kissed his neck and whispered, “You know, teenagers make out on the couch while pretending to watch TV…at least I’ve been told that.”
He almost stumbled in his eagerness to get to the living room. They did have a nice little time there—kissing, teasing, joking, driving each other to the brink--but certainly nothing to write home about. It was all so very sedate. So, why in the world was Violet acting as if it was the best time she’d ever had?
She laughed and kissed him again.
“I’m confused. Did Tom Selleck show up after I left and…you know, finish the job?” he said.
“Of course not!” she said, a little louder than she’d meant to do. She looked toward the boys again, but they were intent on their food, paying them no mind and barely speaking to each other. She lowered her voice again and said, “I had nice dreams last night…about you.”
“Oh, yeah? Mind telling me how nice?” he asked, pulling her closer.
“Very, but some weird ones too,” she whispered, giggling and kissing him again. “Tell you later.”
“Tell me now and we can recreate them upstairs,” he suggested.
“Your boys are here. What would they think if we did that?”
“That you’re in love,” Ronnie said, as clearly as a mouthful of pancakes can sound.
Violet gasped, her cheeks glowing crimson. “How in the world did they hear us?” she squeaked, barely audible.
“Super-sonic hearing,” Simon replied. “It’s a blessing and a curse.”
“I’m gonna die,” Violet muttered, covering her face with her hands.
The boys laughed, until their father glared at them. “Sorry,” they said simultaneously.
“Sweetie, don’t worry about it,” Victor said, pulling her hands away from her face. “They know you were just teasing.”
“Dad, you better come and eat while there’s something left,” Simon said.
“Yeah, I ain’t stopping ‘til it’s all gone and that won’t be long now,” Ronnie added, spearing another sausage, holding it up for his father to see. “Look, Dad, sausage and bacon! I swear, if you don’t marry Violet, I will!”
“That’s funny,” Simon retorted. “I thought you wanted to marry her daughter.”
“Shut it!” Ronnie growled, his neck flushing red.
“The both of you shut it,” Victor interjected, as he semi-dragged Violet to the table and forced her to sit with them.
“You’re a wonderful cook, Ms. Bennett, but I suppose you already know that,” Simon said, smiling at her.
“Thank you, Simon. I like to cook, but your father doesn’t seem to realize this,” she said, and in keeping with her playful behavior of before she stuck her tongue out at Victor.
He gaped at her, but his sons burst out laughing.
“She’s funny, Dad!” Ronnie said.
“Real cute,” Simon added.
“Yes, she is,” Victor replied.
“Enough of that,” she said, taking a muffin for herself, vaguely wondering where the other five went. “How is everybody this morning?”
“I’m quite well, thank you, Ms. Bennett,” Simon said, pompously. “My poor brother, however, is probably still smarting from last night’s tongue lashing he got from our father.”
“Shut it,” Ronnie snapped.
“Victor, why were you yelling at this poor boy?” she said, patting Ronnie on the arm. “Are you all right, Ronnie?”
“I guess…was rough though…could use a hug,” he said, making sad puppy eyes.
“Aww…” Violet said, and she immediately got up and hugged him. “That better?”
“Loads,” Ronnie said, grinning triumphantly at his brother. “Thanks, Mom. You know exactly how to make me feel better.”
“Suck up,” Simon muttered under his breath and he went back to eating.
Violet pushed the hair off Ronnie’s forehead and kissed him then she smiled and sat back down. “Now tell me what the fight was about.”
“It wasn’t a fight,” Victor sternly said.
“Yeah, it was,” Ronnie whined. “Or you wouldn’t have yelled at me.”
“I didn’t yell!” Victor said.
“Did he not yell at you last night like he’s not yelling now?” Violet asked, glaring at Victor.
“Pretty much, yeah,” Ronnie said, barely able to keep from laughing, but still managing to look sad and pathetic.
“What did this boy do that was so bad you had to spend the entire night yelling at him?” she demanded.
“I didn’t yell and it wasn’t the entire night!” Victor shouted. “All right, fine. You wanna know? I’ll tell ya. This genius quit school, has no intention of going back, sold his car and moved to New York City without telling his parents any of this. And to top it all off, he thinks he’s going to be the next American Idol!”
“I never said that,” Ronnie muttered. “You woulda stopped me if I told you.”
“Damn straight I would have!” Victor said. “You have to get some sort of education. Doesn’t have to be business, but you have to have something to fall back on. Music is fine and great, but it’s few and far between the people who can make a living from it.”
“I want to give it a try, Dad,” Ronnie said. “I knew I had to do it without you and Mom knowing, cuz you would’ve had a cow, like you’re having now.”
“Ronnie,” Violet tsked-tsked, “Didn’t you think your parents would like to know what you’re doing. They have a right to know, even if they disagreed with it.”
“You should have told them about quitting school,” she said. “You should have told them how unhappy you were and your plans for the future.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t want to go to Wharton in the first place and Mom made me go,” Ronnie whined. “And Dad knows it.”
“Yes, I did, and how many times have I told you to talk to your mother about it?”
“She never listens, Dad!” Ronnie shouted. “You could’ve talked to her for me. You coulda told her I shouldn’t go to business school… if you would ever bother to stick up for me...”
“Don’t stick me between you and your mother, Ronnie,” Victor said. “I can only do so much with her as you should know by now. We’re not married anymore, remember? You’re grown now, bud, you have to learn to fight your own battles.”
“Thanks a lot! For nothing…” Ronnie snapped.
“Stop it right now!” Violet said.
Stunned, everyone stared at her.
“Ronnie, I don’t like saying this, but you’re acting like a spoiled brat,” she said in a pained voice.
Ronnie’s mouth hung open. “I thought you were on my side.”
“Not when you say something as stupid as your father doing nothing for you. You think every kid gets to go to college for free? You think every kid has a corvette handed to them upon graduation and what do you do to show your gratitude? You sell it!” she said non-too-kindly.
“We need the money to finance the CD we’re making,” Ronnie said.
“Oh, Ronnie!” Violet said, tsk-tsking some more. “And you can’t fathom why your father’s a bit upset? You could have asked for the money, or—here’s a novel idea—you could work for it. If this CD is so important to you, you should work for it. That car was a heartfelt gift from your dad who wanted you to be able to make it back home safely. He wants nothing but the best for you, and you tossed it away, traded it. How do you think that made him feel?”
Ashamed, Ronnie hung his head and mumbled, “I didn’t think of that. Sorry.”
“Thank you, Violet,” Victor said. “That’s precisely…”
“I didn’t even get to you yet, Victor. Wait your turn,” she snapped, turning back to Ronnie. “Your father is right about you standing up to your mother. I know it’s tough. Believe me, I know. She, by all accounts, is formidable, but it’s the only way she’ll learn to let go and allow you to go your own way. You have to be the one to tell her that you can’t or won’t be her puppet. Your dad can’t do that, not me, not Simon, not anyone but you. Okay?”
Ronnie nodded meekly and pushed his half eaten food away. Violet pushed it back toward him. “Eat up. I don’t allow food to be wasted in my house. Besides, you’ll need your strength today…first for your grandmother and then for your mom.”
“You’re not gonna make me talk to her now…like today, are ya?” Ronnie shrieked.
“And when would be a better time?” Violet asked, getting up from the table, and getting the orange juice out of the fridge, she proceeded to pour Ronnie a glass.
“Oh, I dunno… next year?” Ronnie mumbled.
Violet laughed. “Courage, my boy! You need courage. I put some in the juice. Drink up!”
Simon chuckled. “Ms. Violet, I do believe you are what Grandma calls a pip…whatever that is.”
“Thank you, Simon,” Violet said, pouring the juice into his glass next.
Victor lifted his empty glass and said, “May I have some too?”
“What, some courage?” she asked.
“Yes, I think I’ll need it for my own setting down from you.”
She poured the juice than sat down and stared at Victor. “Don’t you believe in your son?”
“Believe in him?” Victor said, indignant. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Do you think him utterly useless?” she asked.
“I do,” Simon mumbled behind his glass. When Violet gave him a stern look he said, “Sorry.”
“You know I don’t!” Victor said. “He’s bright, he has talent. He could do anything he sets his mind to.”
“And what of his passion?” she asked.
“Passion? Violet, what the hell are you talking about?”
“His passion for music, of course,” she said. “He’s amazing.”
“How do you know I…” Ronnie started.
“I heard you singing on the picture CD you made for your dad, the one with the Grand Canyon photos. Anyone who would put so much effort into something like that must have a passion for it and it’s clear you’re talented. It’s wonderful, by the way. I love it, I listen to it all the time. I’d be the first in line to buy this CD you’re working on, so save one for me,” she said.
“Uh…okay…Thanks,” Ronnie said, stealing a curious glance at his father.
“Which begs the question, Ronnie, why didn’t you go to Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, the music school? You applied, didn’t you, and were accepted?”
“How did you know that?” Ronnie said, stunned and again casting a shocked look at his father.
“Yes, how did you know that, Violet, when even I didn’t?” Victor said.
“Sophie told me,” Violet said.
“Sophie?” Ronnie shouted.
“How the hell did she know?” Simon asked, staring at his brother, who looked just as surprised by this news as everyone else.
“Sophie knew? How could she?” Ronnie said. “I didn’t tell anyone… except…”
“How does anybody in high school find out stuff?” Violet said. “This one tells that one and by the dismissal bell everyone knows. Sophie heard it from someone who heard it from someone else. She wanted to go there too, but…”
“She did?” Ronnie said, forgetting not to sound too excited.
“Yes, but her rotten boyfriend talked her out of it,” Violet said, making a grumpy face.
“Any reason why you didn’t tell me?” Victor angrily asked.
“Why would I bother? Mom wouldn’t have let me go and you wouldn’t… whatever,” Ronnie replied in a petulant tone.
Victor looked ready to smack him upside the head. That may have been why Violet put a calming hand over his fist. “If you really had wanted to go, if you had told me, I would have fought for you. I would have helped you. I can’t be expected to read your mind.”
“Why not? You read mine all the time,” Violet said.
Victor gave her a look which clearly said, “Now’s not the time for that, babe.”
“I don’t believe you,” Ronnie said. “You just said I had to learn to fight my own battles with Mom.”
“Yes, if you ever decided on something you wanted. Once you know what exactly it is you want, that’s when you can fight for it. I didn’t know music was what you wanted to study. You gave no indication except for some vague comment about minoring in music. Forgive me, but that didn’t sound like a passion,” Victor said. “It sounded like a hobby at best.”
“Told you… you should’ve said something,” Simon muttered.
“Shut it!” Ronnie said.
“You knew?” Victor snapped, turning on Simon. “You could have said something to me.”
“Yeah, I could’ve, but that’s not letting Ronnie fight his own battles, is it?” Simon retorted.
“Okay, let’s forget all that. Now we all know, so we can do something positive about it,” Violet said, smiling all around. “Now Ronnie can transfer to Mansfield and…”
“I’m not going to Mansfield…not now,” Ronnie adamantly said.
“But, Ronnie, didn’t you just say…” Violet said.
“That was before. I’m not going to school anymore, any school. I’m making an album with my band.”
Violet caught sight of the ominous expression on Victor’s face and swiftly stepped between him and Ronnie. “Victor, don’t.”
“I’m this close, Ronnie,” Victor said, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart, “To bashing your head in.”
“I don’t care. I’m not going back to Wharton, “Ronnie said, “and I’m not going to Mansfield. It’s too far from all the action, and my band is getting plenty of that in the city. We’re booked solid till Christmas. We’re getting a name, we’re going places. You can’t stop us…or me.”
“Wanna bet?” Victor said, taking a step closer.
“Victor, give him until then…’til Christmas,” Violet said.
“Let him have this time off from school. He can pursue his dream. Then he can decide what school he’ll go to in the city,” she replied.
“I said I’m not going to school anymore,” Ronnie shouted.
Violet whirled around and stuck her finger into Ronnie’s face making him cross eyed as he stared at it. “You listen to me, Mr. Hot shot music guy, you may be good, but so are a zillion other wanna-be rock stars, my daughter being one of them. So, if you want to make it, you better be smarter than your average American idol dreamer. That means you have to go to school, which you can do while making this album and doing all those gigs. If you want this, really, truly want this, you better be prepared to work your cute little ass off. Hear me?”
Ronnie gulped. “Yes, ma’am.”
Violet smiled and patted his cheek. She then turned and looked at the others, who stared at her with mouths agape. “Well, if you boys are done with breakfast, you can clean up while I get dressed. We have to get to the hospital before Marty demolishes the nursing staff.”
They watched her leave then exchanged looks.
“I think we’ve found a match for Grandma,” Simon commented.
“Hell yeah,” the other two said.