Violet gasped and tossed aside her knitting when the doorbell rang, startling Calendula and making her sprint away. From under the coffee table, she—the cat, that is-- watched Violet do her own sprinting, and she was muttering something about ominous feelings and all her worrying being for nothing.
Violet rushed to the door, pulled it open and said, “Oh, Sophie, I’m so …” She stopped mid-sentence and blinked. “Simon…what…what are you doing here?”
“Hello, Violet,” Simon said, smiling at her. “Merry Christmas!”
She stood stunned as he embraced her warmly and kissed her cheek. She, on the other hand, wasn’t so delighted to see him. Oh, she loved the warm hug—you can never have too many of those--but it was so not what she had hoped for. No, not because she didn’t like Simon or anything like that. It had nothing to do with Victor either. She was just consumed with worry for Sophie. She just had an awful feeling something really bad was going to happen tonight and she was powerless to do anything. But maybe she was just being an over-protective mother and there was nothing to worry about?
“Hello, Simon,” she said, valiantly trying to ignore the nagging voice in her head telling her that Sophie was in trouble. “What brings you here so late?”
“You will NOT ignore me, Violet!” Richard yelled in her ear. “Sophie is definitely in danger and you have to do something.”
“Late? I hope you weren’t getting ready for bed already,” he said, just as a balsam fir pushed him out of the way helped by his brother.
“Violet!” Ronnie shouted, dropping the tree so his brother could catch it and he scooping her up into his arms right off her feet and hugging her until she squealed. “Oh, I missed you! I didn’t know how much until just now.”
“Ronnie…my goodness, you sure know how to make a girl feel wanted…both of you,” she said with a nervous giggle. She looked behind him and seeing no other surprises—in the shape of Victor—she relaxed and looked up at the boys who were certainly not boys anymore. “Is it possible you boys have grown?”
“Uh…I don’t think so,” Ronnie said, as Simon shoved the tree back at him.
“Could be you don’t have heels on this time so we just look taller,” Simon said, closing the door over.
“Uh…what’s that for?” Violet asked, pointing at the tree.
“For Christmas of course!” Ronnie said.
“I mean…I already have one,” she said, a worried crease between her eyebrows. “Just got it ...tonight in fact.”
"Now you'll have two," Ronnie said. "Extra Christmassy that way!"
She gringed recalling how stupid she was for allowing Antoine to snow her again into thinking he was harmless.
“Oh, yeah,” Richard snapped. “Harmless as a venomous snake in the grass!”
Simon watched her with narowed eyes wondering why she looked so put off by a stupid tree. “Well, this one is from Grandma Marty. She bought one too many and she thought you could use it. We can set it up in the family room,” Simon suggested looking into the living room and seeing the first one—a rather scrawny, unimpressive one by comparison.
“Hmm…maybe with enough decorations that one will look good, too,” he muttered.
“That’s awfully thoughtful of her, but couldn’t your dad use it instead?” she said. “He’s the one having the grand party and his house is huge.”
“You kidding me?” Ronnie said. “We have three more in the truck just like this one for Dad's party.”
"Wow, three Christmas trees...that will look so nice," Violet said.
"Four," Ronnie said. "Dad already got one."
"Four," Ronnie said. "Dad already got one."
“You know, Violet,” Simon said, inspiration hitting him like a freight train. “Dad won’t say it, but I think he could use your help decorating the entire house for the party. He’s clueless about stuff like that and Grandma is so busy this time of year with some charity or another that she won't have the time or energy to do it herself, but she is still insistent the party has to be done just right. Lot of work, too, and Dad’s so busy with the kids and all. He could really use your help.”
“I...uh…” she said, then she frowned as she stared at him. She actually stepped closer and placed her hand on his cheek. “Simon, are you feeling all right? You look so thin and pale. You’ve been studying too hard, I’ll bet, and not eating properly.”
He chuckled. “You sound like Grandma.”
“Gramma said he looked peaky…now I know what that means,” Ronnie said.
“Yes, he does!” she said turning on her heel and heading to the kitchen. “I’ll fix something for you both while you put the tree in the family room for me. I’ll need to get another tree stand for it.”
Simon and Ronnie grinned at each other.
“Are we seriously going to have forth dinner?” Simon whispered.
“Not forth. You can’t call that pineapple- mango fruit thing we had at Mom’s dinner,” Ronnie said, moving an end table to make room for the tree by the comfy looking chair where Calendula now sat, gaping at this wondrous thing being put there just for her. She loved evergreen trees!
“Think it was papaya actually. Right, that was more like an appetizer,” Simon said.
“Besides, Violet’ll probably give us dessert!” Ronnie said, nearly salivating at the thought of one of her pies.
They headed for the kitchen and sure enough, she was cutting rather large slices of chocolate cake for them and a tiny one for herself.
“There you are, boys,” she said. “I figured you might have had dinner already, but if not I could warm up some leftover stew.”
“Violet, you’re my most favorite person ever,” Ronnie said, hugging her again and taking the cake out of her hand in one smooth motion.
“Why don’t you sit while I make you some tea?” Simon said, holding a chair out for her.
“You’re such a gentleman, Simon. You remind me of…”
“Dad,” the two of them said together.
“Yes,” she said, clearing her throat. “Ooh! I almost forgot. I have something for you.”
She jumped off the seat and went into the pantry where she pulled out two colorful tins. They were a bit like the ones she had sent to them several months ago, before she had even met them.
“Aww…I didn’t get your gift yet,” Ronnie said, taking the tin and opening it up.
“Awesome! Double chocolate-chip are my favorite. Thanks, Mom!”
She giggled bringing to the table two tall glasses of milk.
“You are the sweetest person ever, Violet,” Simon said, thanking her with another kiss on the cheek. “We just adore you. Don’t we, Ron?”
“Oh, yeah! Definitely,” Ronnie said, taking his first bite of cake. “Mmm…that’s so good.”
Simon placed a tea cup in front of her and sat down across from her smiling. “Know who else adores you?”
She had a good idea, but she calmly stirred honey into her chamomile tea and made a point of not looking up, pretending she hadn’t heard that part, which was easier than you’d think what with her inner voice fairly screaming at her.
“What about Sophie? Don’t just sit there and do nothing, Violet. You have to think of Sophie!” Richard yelled at her.
“Our new little sister,” Simon continued. “That Georgiana is something else. She reminds me a lot of you."
"She does?" she asked, preplexed.
"Oh, yeah! She’s getting on to be quite a little kitchen guru just like you.”
“Is she? I…I thought you meant uh, your other little sister, your mom’s baby…uh…Adriana?” Violet said.
Ronnie laughed. “That’s what I thought, too. It’s actually Andrea. Can’t get used to all these new brothers and sister. Gonna drive me nuts I’m sure.”
“I hope you’re not feeling…uh…left out or anything. Your parents still love both of you very much,” Violet said earnestly.
The boys exchanged looks then laughed.
"Nothing like that," Simon said.
“Exact opposite,” Ronnie said. “Andrea’s just a baby so not so much interaction with her yet, but Dad’s kids are awesome. Julian is a lot of fun and Georgiana is so smart!” He then whispered loudly, “She might even be smarter than Simon, but don’t tell him I said so, or he may cry.”
Violet giggled again.
“Peter is the only one who’s a bit…well, he’s a little whiney,” Simon said.
Violet gaped at him open mouthed. “Peter? He was never whiney before…unless…is he ill?”
“Don’t think so. According to Dad he’s been whiney for a few weeks now. He burst out crying for no reason at all during dinner tonight,” Simon said, shaking his head sadly.
“Not for no reason, Simon,” Ronnie said, right on cue. “He wanted to come see Violet, remember?”
Simon struggled to keep the smirk off his face as he took a bite from his cake. He could always count on Ronnie to help things along even without him knowing he was doing so. “True, but I didn’t think we should mention that. I didn’t want Violet to feel bad about it.”
“But…it’s not your fault, Violet. We don’t blame you,” Ronnie said quickly. “He wanted to come with us to see you, but…”
“All the kids did actually,” Simon interjected.
“But Dad wouldn’t let them,” Ronnie continued. “Peter just misses you real bad. They all do, but Dad didn’t want to … to bother you.”
Simon could have hugged—yes, actually hugged!—his brother. Judging by the pained look on Violet’s face she was now the poster child for guilt ridden. “No, it’s not your fault, Violet. Peter is just…you know…a little kid with unrealistic expectations. He’ll be all right…some day.”
“Dammit, Violet,” Richard said. “Get rid of these bums and get to Sophie. She needs you.”
Violet pulled her phone out of her pocket and looked at it. No texts, no messages, no missed calls, no nothing from Sophie. That was extremely bad and so unlike her daughter. “Oh, dear…” she mumbled, her heart starting to pound uncomfortably in her chest as it always does when she's frightened.
“Violet, are you all right?” Simon asked.
She bit her lip. “I’m worried about Sophie,” she said.
“Why?” Ronnie said.
“She’s ...she's not...not home," she said in a shaky voice.
"What? Where is she?” Ronnie shouted.
Violet shook her head. “Like an idiot I let her go out with someone I never should have trusted and now I get the feeling something horrible will happen.”
“Oh, God...Antoine,” Ronnie said, an ominous expression on his face.
“Yes…do you know him?” Violet asked.
He nodded. “He’s been going out with her for a few years.”
She shook her head again. “No, they were only ever friends, but…”
“Who is this guy?” Simon asked, annoyed as all get out to have his carefully planned and expertly executed guilt trip derailed.
“His father owns the Gianelli garden center in town. He’s a piece of…work,” Ronnie amended at the last minute after glancing at Violet’s worried face. “He’s told a different story in the locker room, is all I know.”
“The little creep!” Richard snarled.
“Are you sure Sophie’s told you the truth about her relationship with this guy?” Simon asked.
“She wouldn’t lie to me about this. She has zero romantic interest in Antoine, but he is not one to take no for an answer and he…”
“Tell me about it,” Ronnie muttered under his breath, a muscle working furiously along his jawline.
“He is a bit…uh…possessive and…I just don’t trust him,” she said, biting down on her lip until it hurt. “I never should have let her go with him, but she said she was bored and... What should I do? I’ve called and texted and she has not called me back and she always does unless…I know she’s in trouble.”
“We’ll get her,” Ronnie said without hesitation, then turned to his brother, hisneck slightly flushed. “Dad won’t get mad at us for being late if he knows we’re helping Violet, right?”
“No, he won’t and we can always tell him where we’re going. Do you know where she went?” Simon asked.
“They were talking about a movie,” Violet said frowning slightly, “Oh, but I think they were more likely going to a place called Danfords. I never heard of it.”
“It’s around Kramer Lake on the far side of town,” Ronnie said.
Simon shook his head. “Can’t be Danfords then. Danfords won’t let in anyone under twenty-one. They’ll never get in there without false IDs.”
“But it’s Tuesday, so they will,” Ronnie said.
Simon gave him a weird look. “What difference does that make?”
“They have amateur bands on Tuesdays and allow high school kids in to hear them perform,” Ronnie said.
“How the hell do you know that?” Simon said.
Ronnie shrugged. “I saw the sign advertising it down at the supermarket when I went to pick up some milk for Dad’s new kids.”
“Hmm,” Simon said. “Okay. Guess we’re going to Danfords to get Sophie, but will she know us and know to come home with us?”
“Of course she does, at least she knows Ronnie,” Violet said. “Sophie had a crush on Ronnie when she was ten years …oh, I shouldn’t have told you that. She’ll get mad at me.”
Simon nearly groaned out loud. That was the last thing Ronnie needed to know. “I’m sure she’s over it by now,” he said, grabbing his stunned brother by the arm and steering him out of the kitchen. “Don’t worry, Violet. We’ll bring her back safe and sound. I won’t promise the same about that Antoine dude.”
“Oh, Simon, how can I ever thank both of you enough?” Violet said, following them to the front door.
“Oh, I’m sure we can think of something,” Simon said, giving her a charming smile. “What’s one more little sister to take care of, huh?”
©2014 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved