Violet bit her lip and blinked rapidly as she went about cleaning the kitchen, putting away what little was left of the food. She heard the laughter and gleeful chatter coming from the party, and music too. She paused to listen. Marcus must have brought his saxophone and someone else was playing a guitar. It sounded nice and she would have joined them, had she not felt so much like an outsider.
She really ought not be here, she thought, and she went back to cleaning up with thoughts of leaving as soon as humanly possible.
“What is up with her?” Richard asked, running frustrated fingers through his hair. “Why is she so…why doesn’t she just…what is going on in her head? I mean…”
Heidi sighed. “I know. In a perfect world all would make sense, but it never does and never will,” she said.
“We’re supposed to be helping her, so what do we do now? How can we make her stop this stupid behavior? I mean she loves the guy and loves the kids so…”
“But to her it isn’t as easy as that, Richard,” Heidi said.
“Why the hell not? She didn’t have this much trouble with me!” it took her all of two minutes to know we were meant to be."
“And now you’ve finally hit upon the problem,” she said, giving him a meaningful look.
“You’re blaming me for this?”
“No, Richard dear, not you per say,” she said. “Her love for you.”
“For Cripe’s sake, they already had sex, even if she doesn’t remember it, so…”
“Another reason for her reticence.”
“Huh?” he said. "Use little words with me, why dontcha?"
Heidi smiled. “I mean her reluctance to talk about what is truly bothering her.”
“And what’s that?”
“Violet feels guilty about leaving you behind.”
“But I’m not behind! If I were wouldn’t a light come down from heaven and beam me up?”
“God isn’t Scotty beaming people up to the Starship Enterprise, Richard! At least not until our mission is done."
“Wait, are you saying we’re not done? Cuz it sure feels like we're at a dead end.”
“Not even close. Every time they think the mission is done on Startrek something else inevitably comes up, doesn’t it? It’s the same in this case.”
Richard gaped at her, astounded. “I never would have thought you a trekkie.”
She giggled. “There are a great many things which would surprise you about me, I imagine.”
“I’ll bet,” he mumbled. He turned back to Violet and grimaced watching her. She looked so desolate. “So, God isn’t about to beam me up anytime soon, is what you’re saying? I’m still stuck here?”
“Yes, she still needs you…at least she…well, she wants to convince herself that she does. You see, Richard, she spent all summer with barely a thought of you.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” he grumbled.
“It was a good sign. We both thought this was going well, didn’t we?” she asked.
He cleared his throat and made a head gesture that could have gone either way.
“But it seems things were progressing too quickly for her. My grandsons urging her to marry their father, Simon mistakenly assuming she was pregnant and then Marty and Morris getting married…”
“Why would that be a problem? She was all for it.”
“Yes, because Marty and Morris were meant to be, and she knows this like she knows her own name. High school sweethearts they were, who finally got together after so many lonely years apart and they were pulled apart and kept apart through no fault of their own, by well-meaning family. Does that not sound awfully familiar to you, dear?”
Richard opened his mouth, then quickly shut it again. “Oh, crap. Just like with us," he muttered.
“Precisely. That got her thinking of you again, her first love, her only love,” Heidi said gently.
“But I’m not her only love anymore,” Richard corrected, a tad too harshly.
“And…well, she’s finally realized that and with that came guilt for having abandoned you when she swore she never would. She’s just trying to keep her word even though it is causing her, and Victor I might add, endless anguish.”
“This totally sucks!” he shouted.
“Shhhh!” Heidi suddenly said, holding up her delicate hand.
“You know they can’t hear me.”
“Shhh…I say! Do you hear that?” Heidi said, turning away.
“No, someone’s outside,” she said, pointing to the back door. She floated toward the kitchen door and went right through it.
Richard followed and they both saw it. A thin, cloaked figure emerged from the woods, moved swiftly over the lawn, skirted the pool and approached the patio, his movements stealth-like, and nearly noiseless. He seemed nervous, too, and constantly looked about him to make certain no one was watching. With no moon out and his black clothing, he was virtually invisible. Of course, not so to a couple of ghosts.
It was difficult to see his face, but with the light coming from the kitchen they caught the glint of eyeglasses. He was young, hardly over fifteen, if Richard was any judge, and he looked just like Harry Potter—lightning bolt scar on his forehead and everything. It being Halloween, it would not be a stretch he was going trick or treating or to a Halloween party.
This boy seemed to be carrying something. Richard imagined a pumpkin about to be smashed on the doorstep, but he was mistaken. Once within a foot of the door, the boy crouched down and with great care placed a large box, which he had concealed within his cape until the last moment, down on the ground.
He stayed there for a moment, staring down at it then laid his hand on the top of the box and seemed to bow his head as if in prayer, and before they knew it he was up and sprinting into the woods again, vanishing as if he’d never been there at all.
“What the hell was that about?” Richard said.
“I have my suspicions,” Heidi said, lifting a hand and making a small sweeping motion.
Suddenly the breeze picked up and with it the lid of the box—Richard could see it had been a shoebox for hiking boots, the same Timberline brand he preferred.
They both gasped as they stared into the box. It wasn’t hiking boots!
“Good God!” Richard said.
“Oh, my Dear Lord!” Heidi whispered, trembling fingers covering her lips.
“We gotta tell Violet! She’ll know what to do,” he said. With that he went inside and started frantically talking to her while Heidi remained with the box, or rather with the incredible contents.
“In her current state of mind, Violet won’t hear Richard,” Heidi said, her brow furrowed in concentration. “But she would hear you, little one, if you made enough noise. Do forgive me for this.” She then pressed her thumb and forefinger together as if pinching something.
A whimper and then a full blown wail was enough to make Heidi smile and she waited.
"Violet, open the back door. You have to! "Richard said for the tenth time.
"Violet, open the back door. You have to! "Richard said for the tenth time.
Violet frowned and cocked her head to listen, but not to Richard. “What is that?” she mumbled to herself.
She moved away from the counter she had been wiping and listened again. It was not coming from the party, but rather outside the door.
“A stray cat?” she muttered placing her hand on the knob. She opened it and frowned into the darkness, she stepped outside and her foot hit the box. She looked inside and gasped. “Omigosh!”
For a few seconds she just stared at it, stunned, then snapping out of it, she lifted the box and brought it inside, closing the door behind her.
“Oh, my goodness, who would do this to you, you poor little thing?” she said lifting the baby out of the box. It was wrapped in what looked like an old sweater vest, in a style of decades ago. As she stood soothing the baby until his crying stopped, Catherine came into the kitchen with several glasses in her hands.
She grinned. “Oh, there you are! Are you ever without a child in your arms?” she said, coming to look. “Whose baby is this?”
Violet looked up at her—Catherine was much taller—and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
Catherine frowned, then saw the horrible sweater vest, the Timberline Boots box and a sheet of paper within it and came to the only viable conclusion. “Dear God!” She bent down and grabbed the paper, thinking there must be a message written on it. There was.
She read it out loud: “Please find good parents for her. We can’t take care of her. Thank you.” She and Violet exchanged looks, then both looked down at the child, now sleeping soundly with a fist in her mouth.
“Why…why would they bring her here? Today of all days?” Catherine asked.
Violet shook her head then said, “Oh! The littlest angels van!” she said. “It’s parked just out front. They must have seen it and assumed…it was a good assumption. I ought to get Flora and Louis. They’ll know what to do with her.”
“NO!” Catherine said, sharper than she intended. “I mean…let me get Andrew, to…uh…check her over first. He’s a paramedic and can stabilizer her if she’s been exposed for too long. You stay here with her, so…so we won’t be bothered with so many people hovering about. Okay?”
Violet nodded and stared down at the sleeping child. It was as good a plan as any.
Catherine hurried away and finding Andrew still telling jokes with Marcus--both of them making Louis laugh so hard his beret fell over his eyes—she grabbed his arm and said, “Marcus, you’ll have to entertain the reverend on your own. We’ve been called away on urgent business. Do make our apologies, but only after we’re missed. Don’t want to ruin the party.”
“Sure thing, no party’s complete without Marilyn and Joe!” Marcus said, grinning broadly so his super white teeth shone in his dark face.
“What urgent business?” Andy asked, allowing her to drag him away.
“You’ll see,” she mumbled, lifting her tight skirt to allow her long legs to take bigger strides.
Andy smiled at Violet as they entered the kitchen. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Violet,” Andy corrected, giving Violet an apologetic grin.
“Yes, of course, Violet, has found this…abandoned baby on the back steps,” Catherine said breathlessly.
Andy’s jaw dropped. “What? We have to take him to the hospital so they can check him over and find his parents and....”
“See if she’s okay yourself, Andrew. She’s been exposed to the elements for who knows how long. Time is of the essence,” Catherine said, giving him a significant look.
“Right,” he said taking the infant from Violet. “Hey, cutie, let’s see how you’re doing, okay?” he said, in soothing tones. He placed the child--now awake, who yawned and stared up with dark blue eyes--on the cleared off counter. Andy unwrapped the hideous sweater from around her. The child, definitely a little girl, had not a stitch of clothing on, her umbilical cord was still attached, but she appeared to be fine otherwise.
“She can’t be more than a few hours old. Dear God, who would do this?” Andy said, checking her vital signs as best he could.
“Someone desperate,” Violet said, lifting the note and re-reading it before flipping it over to see the back of the page. It was a flyer for the pep rally they were holding next Tuesday evening at the high school. “Obviously a teenager from Catalpa Valley high school.” She held it up for them to see.
“Then they really can’t take care of her,” Catherine muttered under her breath, staring at the fortuitous shoebox.
Violet sighed and moved to see the baby. “I should tell Flora so she can…”
Catherine stepped in front of her. “Violet, listen to me. Andrew and I could take her and raise her as our own.”
“Oh, well, that’s up to Flora. She can put you on the waiting list and…”
“We’ve been trying to have a baby since we got married,” Catherine said, earnestly. “We won’t get another chance like this for a long time.”
“You don’t know that,” Violet said. “There are tons of babies…to adopt.” Even as she said it she knew that wasn’t true. Hadn't Karen considered giving up Missy until she thought better of it? “I mean…”
“Catherine, what are you saying?” Andy said, looking away from the baby long enough to glare at his wife. “We can’t just steal a baby!”
“What are you talking about, Andrew? We’re not stealing anything,” Catherine said, staring at Violet. “Are we?”
“But…” Violet started to say.
“I know you are a good, kind-hearted person,” Catherine said, reaching out to take her hands.
“Why do you say that? You don’t know me from Adam,” Violet said bluntly.
“But Victor does and he loves you. He told me so and that tells me you are exactly what he’s always wanted, a sweet, kind, understanding woman who loves kids as much as he does. You know what it’s like, you being a mother. Perhaps Victor has told you I’m a bit harsh on my boys, but I had to be, because...it's the trouble with divorce. One parent is always pitted as the bad guy and that fell on me, but that’s only because I care so much about my sons and their future. With things the way they are in this world now...I only want the best for them. You understand that, surely,” Catherine earnestly said.
Violet nodded mutely, understanding perfectly.
Catherine drew herself to her fullest height and smiled. “Violet, you’ll have to excuse us. We just got an urgent call from the adoption agency,” she said, taking the baby from Andy. “A teenage mother just gave up her baby and they picked us to take care of her, to give her a wonderful, stable home and to love her, love her with all our heart and soul. We have to go buy diapers and formula and all sorts of things to make her life as amazing as we can.”
“Catherine, you can’t expect Violet to keep this secret forever,” Andy hissed.
“No, of course not,” Catherine replied, going to the back door, opening it up and pushing the shoe box outside with her foot. She then stepped out herself, the baby safe in her arms. “She can tell everyone the wonderful news and in a few weeks once we have our little angel settled, we can all have a lovely party to welcome home our sweet little girl and introduce her to our friends and family,” Catherine said smiling at Violet, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “We'll need a name for her and I'm thinking of a flower of some sort." She laughed and looked down at the baby in her arms, then back up to meet Violet's astonished expression. "We’re so happy, Violet. Thank you for this lovely time. We’ll be seeing you soon. We can have all our family together, you and Victor and the boys and my mother and her new beau. The boys will love that. Come on, Andrew. The night air is not good for the baby, you know.”
Andy stared at his wife then turned to Violet, his expression dazed and bewildered. “I…I …”
Violet smiled and moved him toward the door. “Just like a new father…clueless and speechless and a little bit terrified, but I know you'll be a great daddy. Victor has told me as much. Pity we don’t have the crib anymore. You know, the one you had for Simon and Ronnie. We gave it away to a new mother just a few months ago.”
“We can buy everything she’ll need, but we have to hurry before all the stores close,” Catherine said. “Thanks you so much, Violet. I’m sure we’ll be the best of friends.”
Violet seriously doubted that, but she smiled, wished them well and closed the door behind them.
She still had the doorknob in her hand when Flora entered the kitchen. “I was told Catherine was in here. Victor told me she wanted to talk to me. Violet, are you all right?” she said.
“Um…yes, I…I thought I heard a cat or...something,” she said, her cheeks glowing pink as they always did when she told an outrageous lie.
“Oh, there are stray cats all over the place. Good for catching all the field mice before they enter the house!” Flora said. “Anyway, we were thinking of heading home. It’s getting a bit late and tomorrow is a school day, you know.”
“Oh, well, let me say goodbye to the kids,” Violet said, glancing back at the door and hoping Andy and Catherine had already made their get-away without being seen.
“Oh, they’d never leave without doing that. Oh, guess what! Your lovely friend Jocelyn is taking in the twin boys and adopting them. You should see them together. They love her already and her hunky boyfriend, too. They are all beyond thrilled. Isn’t that amazing? Who knew coming to a Halloween party could make a family where there was none before? Oh, so many people happy!”
Violet glanced to the back door again and smiled. “Yes, who knew?”