Monday, April 20, 2015

Chapter 253: Was there a reason?



Not that we mind coming to lunch with you, Mom,” Simon said. “But was there a reason? We did see you just yesterday. If you had something to tell us you might have done so then.”

Yes, something came up. I have a meeting with the hospital board of directors this afternoon, before Andy can get back in time to watch the baby. I was hoping you could do me this favor,” Catherine said.

Simon grimaced and stared across at his brother who rolled his eyes, then nodded.

No problem, Mom,” Ronnie said. “I'll watch the baby. Simon can take the girls shopping.”

But you said you had some shopping to do, too,” Sophie said.

Can't we take the baby with us?” Cassandra said. “She seems like such a good baby. How much trouble could she be?”

I wouldn't want to find out,” Simon muttered, just as their server came with their food.


I wanted you to help me pick out something for your father and your brothers and sisters,” Sophie said. “I don't know what to get them for Christmas. I don't even know them.”

Exactly why you don't have to get them anything...not yet anyway. Maybe next year when we're officially family,” Ronnie said, casting a swift glance at his mother. “I mean... if Violet marries Dad, that is.”

Don't you mean when she marries him?” Catherine said.

That's a bit up in the air at present, Mom,” Simon said in an undertone.

Catherine frowned. "What's going on? I thought after Thanksgiving...”

Not now, Mom,” Simon mumbled.

We can go shopping some other time I guess, when we can all go together,” Cassandra said hopefully.

You don't need me to go shopping, Cassie. Besides, there's only one week left 'til Christmas and the later you wait the worse the crowds get. Better to do it now. Simon can take you,” Ronnie said, giving the waitress a smile as she placed his food in front of him.

You girls couldn't be more different,” Simon said.

Both girls looked up and said, “What do you mean?”

He indicated their food. “Cassandra eats like a bird and Sophie ordered enough food for a couple of starving lumber Jacks,” he said staring in disbelief at Sophie's huge platter consisting of a jumbo burger, chili fries, cole slaw and one whole pickle cut into spears with an extra large, wonderfully thick chocolate milk shake on the side—nearly the same Ronnie had ordered-- which was easily four times the amount Cassandra had before her, half of which she likely wouldn't eat.

You can't possibly eat all that, Sophie,” Simon said.

Shows how much you know,” Sophie said, taking a couple of fries and biting into them with a haughty tilt to her head.

"It's really amazing how much she can eat and still be thin," Cassandra said.

You'll get sick!” Simon said.

No, I won't," Sophie said laughing. "I know several lumber Jacks I can eat under the table. Watch me!”

Ronnie chuckled. “I love this girl,” he said before he could stop himself. He looked up and caught the disapproving expression on his brother's face and the somewhat amused one on his mother's. He panicked and said, “Uh...I don't mean... like...not really...cuz... uh... wow, this burger looks really good.” He then picked it up and took a huge bite.

What kind you get?” Sophie asked, taking a bite of hers.

Bacon and jalapeno,” he said. “How about you?”

Avocado, bacon and cheddar. Got you beat, bud. Mine's better,” she said grinning, then she held it up for him. “Wanna bite? It's yummy!”

He shook his head. "Don't like avocado. You wanna try mine?" he said.

"Uh-uh, jalapenos give me hiccups," she said.

"Seriously?"

It's weird, I know, but what can you do? Anyway...this is really good. You don't know what you're missing,” Sophie insisted.

Ronnie knows exactly what he's missing. He doesn't want to get cooties,” Cassandra said, smiling at Ronnie.

Ronnie grinned back. “Yup. Cassie knows.”

Hey, who's side are you on?” Sophie said. "Everybody knows boys have cooties!"

Cooties...really?” Simon said, shaking his head. “And here I thought you were a woman of science.”

I am," Cassandra said. "My theory is we all have cooties."

"Is it politically incorrect to say terrorist have all the cooties in the world?" Sophie asked absently.

"Oh, that makes sense!" Ronnie said, laughing.

"Unfortunately, research for cooties is woefully underfunded so we may never know for sure who's got cooties in greater concentration,” Cassandra said with a tiny shrug.

I love that girl,” Ronnie said, then looking around he added, “You know... like.... not really but...um...these fries are awesome.”

Catherine shook her head watching him stuff his mouth. “You seem to love everyone but me, Ronald,” she said stabbing moodily at her crab Louis. “I must admit you've hurt me greatly and the worst part is you've done it on purpose.”

Ronnie nearly choked. “What... that's not true, Mom,” he said.

Oh? How long were you at your father's, huh?” she said. “At least a week and only when your grandmother asked you to bring something to me did you manage to find the time to visit me. You haven't even called me! You call that love, Ronald? I call that neglect.”

I...uh... I was babysitting for Dad. They've been keeping me busy. Dad's been called into the city almost every day this week and I...uh...I offered to help and stay with the kids, so I, uh...I couldn't go anywhere...cuz...I don't have my car anymore,” he said.

He's becoming quite the manny, Mom,” Simon said, smirking. “We're all so proud of him.”

I think you oughta shut up, Simon,” Sophie said angrily, taking a savage bite out of her burger—perhaps wishing it was Simon's neck.

I'm extremely disappointed in you, Ronald. It's not just that you refuse to see me. I shouldn't hear the news you quit Wharton from Morris. You didn't even tell me he was your ethics professor. I can only assume your father knows. You tell him everything, but you keep me completely in the dark. Why, Ronald, why?” Catherine said.

Think you know the answer to that, Mom,” Simon interjected.

"Mom, you were busy with the new baby and...I didn't want to bother you," Ronnie said.

“Or more likely he was afraid to tell you,” Simon said.

"I was not so busy that you couldn't come see me," Catherine said. "Tell me, what are you planning on doing now? Are you applying to any other schools?"

“Do we gotta talk about this now?” Ronnie said, the color rising in his neck.

When would be a better time?” Catherine asked. “After you're homeless on the street with no education or any hope for a decent future?”

Sophie had heard quite enough. She swallowed a mouthful and said, “I thought you might have been an intelligent woman, Mrs. Delaney, seeing how smart your sons are, but I was obviously wrong. They must have gotten it from their dad.”

Catherine stared daggers at her while Ronnie grew pale and muttered, “Sophie, don't, please.”

I got this, Ronnie,” Sophie replied giving him a quick smile as she placed a hand on his thigh.

I beg your pardon?” Catherine hissed.

No, you ought to beg your son's pardon and forgiveness for calling him a disappointment when he's nothing like that,” Sophie said, taking a deep breath and continuing before anyone could utter a word. 

“Okay, so he quit fricken whoop-dee-doo Wharton...so he won't get an MBA. So what? Any idiot should know Ronnie wasn't put on Earth to shuffle endless amounts of paperwork in a stifling little cubical or even in a spectacular corner office overlooking Central Park or whatever it is the Donald Trumps of the world see out of their windows. Who with a brain can imagine a sweet, caring guy like Ronnie cutting mega-million dollar deals so that some heartless billionaire can get richer? You really think Ronnie wants to spend his days dodging back stabbing, ruthless corporate sharks and becoming one himself just to survive?" 

She paused to chew on two fries, shaking her head in wonder. "Yeah, I suppose having matching twin BMWs in the driveway of his luxury mini-mansion or in the parking garage of his Park Avenue penthouse would be awesome, especially for his trophy wife who wants him pumping out the money faster than she can spend it, so she can be draped in furs, jewelry and designer clothes while she drinks herself into a stupor and has illicit affairs with the pool boy, her personal trainer, random men and...hey, why not Ronnie's best friends,  and his boss too? After all, Ronnie's never around to entertain her. How can he? He's too busy being the wonderful business man his mama wants him to be. Seriously? That's the pathetic life you want for your son? He'll be so happy...NOT! You ought to be ashamed of yourself for wishing it on him!”

There was dead silence at their table--and nearby tables were suddenly hushed as well, possibly awaiting an explosion.

Who the hell do you think you are speaking to me this way?” Catherine said in a dangerously low whisper.

Apparently, I'm Ronnie's sole supporter,” Sophie replied, unabashed. “It's now painfully obvious to me why Ronnie is so eager to get his dad to marry my mom. He wants a nice step-mother for a change, one who would never tell him he was a disappointment. My mom would love him unconditionally whether he's a forest ranger, a used car salesman, a Starbucks barista or the best darned babysitter in Catalpa Valley. Actually...I have the feeling she already does, cuz Ronnie's the best. It's just too bad his own mother doesn't recognize that.”

I think you've said enough, Sophie” Simon warned, seeing the arrested expression on his mother's face.

Funny, I don't think I'd said near enough,” Sophie replied.

"Yes, you have," Ronnie said. "Mom, she didn't mean it like that, okay?"

 "But it's true," Cassandra said, to everyone's astonishment.

What?” Simon said, aghast.

I mean...I support Ronnie,” she said. “I never thought business school was right for him. Remember, Ronnie, what I told you when you told me you had been accepted to Wharton?”

Ronnie stared at her and slowly shook his head. “Yeah, but, Cassie... I dunno where you got the idea I could...” he said.

What did you tell him?” Sophie asked.

That he would make an excellent teacher,” Cassandra said, smiling at him. “You didn't know I was there at the library every day, but I saw you tutoring that boy...what was his name? Harry, Gary?”

You mean Jerry Kowalski,” Ronnie said. “You saw that?”

Yup. You were doing geometry and chemistry and even social studies with him, the same stuff over and over, day after day and he just couldn't get it, until...I dunno,” Cassandra shrugged. “He finally did. Lucky for him you were so patient with him...or stubborn. You just wouldn't let him quit even when he wanted to. He would have been kicked off the soccer team if not for you. You turned his Ds and Fs into Bs. Pretty impressive.”

Jerry Kowalski? I don't remember him playing much,” Sophie said.

Rode the bench most of the time, not a great player, but he loves soccer,” Ronnie said, completely embarrassed.

Then why go through all the trouble tutoring him if he wasn't that important to the team?” Simon asked.

Because Ronnie's first thought isn't what's in it for him or the team. It was important for Jerry to get his grades up and that made it important for Ronnie,” Cassandra said. “That's why I think he'd make an awesome teacher...totally selfless.”

You're kidding, right?” Simon said. “Ron could barely pass his own classes, let alone help somebody else.”

Cassandra frowned. “You know, I don't like this side of you very much,” she said. “Do you know your brother at all? Ronnie may not have been first in our class, but....”

That was you, after all,” Sophie interjected, sipping from the milk shake.

Wait,” Simon said. “You were first in your class and you're in community college?”

...but seventh out of over two hundred kids isn't anything to sneeze at!” Cassandra finished. "Ronnie is very smart."

What!” Simon said looking from Cassandra to his brother and back again. “No, he was not seventh in your class! He's an idiot. You're making this up.”

"Then how did he get into Wharton to begin with? On his good looks?" Cassandra said.

"I assumed my father pulled some strings," Simon said.

You know, Simon, I really don't like how little you think of your brother,” Cassandra said, angrily. “Ronnie is a great guy, intelligent and nice. You could learn something from him and I'd advise you not to call me a liar if you want to keep that pretty face of yours...like ever!”

If you like my brother so much why don't you date him,” Simon countered.

I might if he wasn't already in love with somebody else!” she retorted.

Who...who is Ronnie in love with?” Sophie eagerly asked.

Uh...” Cassandra looked from Ronnie to Sophie and back again. “I don't know for sure...just a guess, but even if I knew, I wouldn't say, cuz...that's Ronnie's business and nobody else has to know unless he chooses to tell them.”

She then picked up her spoon and tasted her soup. “This is the best clam chowder I ever had,” she said. "It's amazing!"

That's because it's lobster bisque,” Simon muttered, irritably.

Oh...okay, “Cassandra said, a tiny smile tugging her lips as she glanced at Ronnie. “Thank you for inviting us to lunch.”

You're welcome,” Ronnie said, but Cassandra knew he was actually thanking her.




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