Continued from Chapter 165: Dressed for Dinner, part 1
Ronnie started very lightly sprinkling the cheese on the hot and bubbly enchiladas.
“Ronnie, are you counting calories?” Violet asked.
She laughed. “Sweetie, use at least half the package. We want to know there’s cheese on them. The other half I’ll use on the refried beans.”
“Oh, okay,” he said. Then he started having fun, tossing cheese around like a maniac.
She laughed again as she placed lettuce into the salad spinner. “You are adorable, Ronnie. It’s no wonder Sophie had a crush on you.”
“What did you say?” Ronnie said, staring at her.
“Oh, gosh! I don’t suppose I ought to have told you that.”
Ronnie gulped and without looking dumped the entire package of cheese right in the dead center of the casserole dish.
“Oh, Ronnie!” Violet grimaced. “Ah, well, we’ll know there’s cheese on them now, won’t we?” She handed him a spoon. “Try to distribute it a bit more evenly, okay?”
“Sorry,” he muttered, spreading the cheese out as his mind worked furiously. “So…uh…Sophie had a crush…like… on me?”
“Oh, yes! There are only two Romanoff boys, after all, and you’re the one in her class so…kinda a no-brainer.”
“Yeah….but….like…when was this?”
“Oh, as soon as you showed up in Catalpa Valley,” Violet said smiling at the memory. “She was so cute. I remember her coming home that day and absolutely gushing with excitement. She said the cutest boy ever just moved to Catalpa Valley from the city with his Mom and older brother. She said every other kid was making life miserable for you, calling you city-slickers and whatever, but the big selling point was that you were taller than she was.”
Ronnie gave her a goofy grin. “Yeah, she was just an inch shorter I think.”
“You must know she towered over almost everyone else in her class, especially the boys. It was a real sticking point for her. Got teased unmercifully for being so skinny, too. She’s got the last laugh now, though. She’s filled out nicely.”
“I’ll say,” Ronnie muttered.
“She’s model perfect! Ooh, I guess I should have given you a biased mom alert, huh?” she said, laughing.
“Not biased if it’s true,” Ronnie said. “Is this good enough?”
“Oh, sure, that’s fine. Can you put it back in the oven so the cheese melts?”
He nodded and did her bidding, all the while wondering if he really wanted to know the answer to his next question. “So, um… when did she get over the crush?”
“Oh…let’s see,” she said, taking the bowl of lettuce to the sink and washing it before spinning it dry. “You know, I can’t really say. I mean…she never really liked anyone else enough to tell me.”
“Except for Antoine,” Ronnie said, and he didn’t quite manage to get his hatred for the guy out of his voice.
“Well… he was never her boyfriend…not really.”
Ronnie scoffed. “I think you’re wrong about that. He told anyone who would listen that Sophie was his and every other guy could just back off or get a fist in his face or something.”
Violet turned from the sink and stared at Ronnie, her expression half fearful, half angry. “Did he really?”
“Oh, yeah!” Ronnie said. “Don’t know what she sees in him. He’s such an ass… sorry. Um…can I do anything else for you?”
Violet went to him and placed a hand on his arm. “So, you didn’t like him either?”
Ronnie hesitated. It probably wasn’t a good idea to honestly say what he thought about Antoine, but the worried look on Violet’s face made him think otherwise. “No, I wouldn’t trust him with a skunk.”
Violet blinked stupidly at him. “What do you mean… a skunk?”
“I mean…there are people you can trust with your life. And others you can trust with your best friend, your girlfriend or even your dog. Well, I don’t like skunks, but I still wouldn’t trust him with one.”
Violet’s grip on his arm tightened. “Omigosh! And he’s got my Sophie all the way in Florida where I can’t stop him or her from doing something stupid,” she said.
“So, they’re…” he paused to grind his back teeth. “They’re living together?”
“No! Of course not. She’s in the girls’ dorm and has a very nice roommate,” she said frowning slightly. “But…well, Antoine’s always there telling her what to do, what classes to take and…it was his idea for Sophie to go to Miami with him. She is breaking away from him now, though…a bit anyway.”
“How?” Ronnie asked a little too excitedly. “She has a new boyfriend?”
“No, not that she’s told me, but she’s switched from marine biology—which again was Antoine’s doing—to music theory or something. She may even move back up this way…maybe not exactly back home, but I hope she’s thinking of the Mayfield school in Pennsylvania again. Oh, I need the tomatoes. Can you get those for me, Ronnie?”
On automatic he did as told, his thoughts spinning in his brain faster than the lettuce in the salad spinner. “I almost…well, I wanted to go there, too, but my mother…” He sighed and angrily plopped the plum tomatoes on the counter. He stared at Violet as she deftly diced the tomatoes all the while thinking aloud. “Maybe I’ll try again. Dad will let me…maybe, but it’ll still be too far from the city and my band.”
“Let you do what, Sweetie?”
“Uh…the music school. It’s either that or…wish I could get into Juliard, but that’s a bigger dream than being on American Idol.”
Violet smiled. “It’s quite amazing. You and Sophie never got together in school, but you really ought to have done. You have so much in common.”
Ronnie scoffed. “How? She didn’t have a Nazi for a mother like I do. She got to go to school where she wanted.”
“Not sure she really did, though. It was Antoine’s idea. If you remember she went away right after her father died. She didn’t want to do anything and Antoine just moved in and took over and…” Violet sighed and pushed the diced tomatoes into a bowl. “You know what I wish, Ronnie?”
“That you hadn’t offered to make such a complicated meal?” he said watching her pull the casserole out of the oven again.
She laughed and proceeded to garnish the top with diagonal stripes of chives from the herb garden, the diced tomatoes and the shredded lettuce. “No, you silly! I wish Sophie was still madly in love with you. But I guess that wouldn’t be good either. I mean, what’s the use of her liking you if you never liked… oh, I almost forgot! Victor told me you once liked Sophie. Oh, how I wish you both still liked each other. You’d make a perfect couple. I assume that’s what Simon keeps teasing you about. Probably more so because of me and your dad, I guess. Sorry about that. But it would make sense, don’t you think? It would be so nice if you and Sophie got together. I mean, how alike can you two be? Both crazy serious about music, both with your own bands, both…”
“What did you say?” Ronnie shouted. “Sophie has her own band?”
“Oh yes, didn’t I mention that? She was only singing backup for the band, but she said, last time I talked to her, that she’ll be doing some lead singing too. She loves it! They have a major gig lined up at a place called Downtown Disney for the Thanksgiving week so…”
“No,” Violet said, startled by his reaction. “Uh… so, you know about that place?”
“Yeah, everybody does!” he said. “Not just anybody gets to perform there. It’s a really big deal!”
Violet made a face. “Everybody except for me, it seems. I really ought to get out from under my rock and live a little,” she said with a shrug. “Ah well, I’m doing fine in the kitchen for now. Everything is almost ready. Can you set the table for me?”
“Sure,” Ronnie said turning to go into the dining room.
“Ronnie,” Violet said.
She smiled. “I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
“Freak me out?”
“You know, by wishing you still liked Sophie. Mothers can’t help wishing the best for their kids.”
“You…you think I’d be the best…for her?” he asked, stunned and deeply touched.
She smiled again and went to him. On tiptoes she reached up and kissed his cheek. “I’d trust you with my best friend, my life and even my daughter… not so sure about a skunk, though.” She laughed and then yelped as he hugged her fiercely, lifting her right off her feet.
“I kinda already love you, Ms. Bennett…. Mom,” he whispered. Next moment he dropped her to the floor and rushed out of the kitchen where he crashed right into Simon.
“What the hell?” Simon yelled. “I’ve been looking all over for you. You’ve been here all along?”
“Violet needed help,” Ronnie said, going to the buffet table, withdrawing the silver wear and proceeding to set the table for six.
“The professor has been asking for you,” Simon said, watching his brother with narrowed eyes. “What’s up with you?”
“I don’t want to be dragged into a conversation with him and Dad about school, if you don’t mind,” Ronnie snapped.
“No, that’s not it. Did Violet tell you something? Did she faint again?” Simon asked.
“Again?” Ronnie said, stopping in the process of placing folded cloth napkins at each place setting. “When did she faint the first time?”
“While I was here alone with her. Just barely caught her before she went down. She could have really hurt herself.”
“Did you tell Dad?”
“She said she’ll tell him herself, only, I don’t believe her.”
“Why do you think she fainted? She sick?”
Simon grinned. “I think we may have a little brother or sister in about seven or eight months.”
“Get out!” Ronnie shouted.
Simon shrugged. “My guess, but if she doesn’t tell Dad soon, I’ll have to.”
Ronnie went back to setting forks, spoons and knives with a creased eyebrow. “We’ll get more than one little brother or sister when they marry.”
Simon folded his arms over his chest. “You hoping for twins?” he laughed.
“No, wise ass! Violet’s kids,” Ronnie said, grinding his back teeth again. “Kevin and Sophie…”
“Kenny,” Simon corrected.
“Yeah, him and Sophie will be our step-brother and step-sister.”
“Yes,” Simon said. “Then it’ll be hands off forever and you’ll have to finally get over her.”
“I am over her!” Ronnie growled.
Simon smirked. “Sure you are and Dad will dump Violet and remarry Mom next week.”
Ronnie gritted his teeth as he watched Simon walk away. “I’ll have to get over her now,” he mumbled to himself. “No choice. Me and Sophie can never happen…not anymore. So much for Violet’s wishes.”
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