Sophie grabbed the remote and pointed it at the giant TV as if it were a Glock ready to pop off an intruder's head. Man, was she pissed! And Simon wasn't even the reason for it...well, not entirely.
She plopped down onto the plush sofa clicking with abandon through the endless channels, but she was only pretending... pretending that she was searching the tube for something to watch. She flipped through inane kids' programs, stupid talk shows and boring wartime docudramas without paying the least bit of attention to any of them. All her attention, after all, was focused elsewhere, just beyond the living room-- where she sat-- looking through the archway past the foyer across into the dining room where Cassandra and Ronnie were trying to feed the baby and seemingly having the time of their lives doing it.
Surreptitiously Sophie watched the way-too chummy behavior of her supposed best friend with Ronnie, the love of her life. There they were talking about their days in biology and math class and laughing and joking and having far too much fun all while playing silly games with the baby.
“Some friend,” Sophie muttered through clenched teeth.
In all honesty, Sophie knew Cassandra had ceased being her best friend when Sophie pushed her away because of her constant whining about her overbearing father. Every other time Sophie had been sympathetic about Cassandra's plight... just not after Sophie's dad was killed in that horrible fire and she would have given her right arm to have him back. When you lose your beloved father and then hear someone complain about theirs--their very much alive and breathing father no matter how annoyingly overprotective they are--well, it's just too much too bear.
Their friendship disintegrated on the spot, but now, with time behind them and Sophie's grief under control, their friendship should be on the mend...might have been until...
Now this sorta-kinda friend was clearly making a move on her Ronnie. What the hell, huh? Cassandra knew how Sophie felt about Ronnie, so why was she doing this? Ronnie would never get to be the love of her life truly if she didn't do something about this...and sooner than later! Of course, she didn't have a clue what she could do about it.
Just as her expression took on the menacing appearance of someone denied a most precious thing, of someone with thoughts of murder-death-kill, Simon sat down at the other end of the sofa.
Great! Another round of mind games with the king of pain-in-the butt. She was so not in the mood for any more crap from him.
“Don't start,” she said through clenched teeth.
“I didn't say anything,” he replied, following her gaze to the others. He frowned at what he saw there. He noticed, and Sophie no doubt did too, that Cassandra liked touching Ronnie and did it often—a tug on the arm, a casual brushing of his hand, a small punch on his shoulder and even a tiny dig at his ribs all of which made his brother laugh, and consequently grated on Simon's nerves. “I guess any thoughts I may have had about your friend have been dashed.”
She gave him a venomous gaze and turned back to the TV...or rather pretended to. “And what thoughts were those? She's not the type to sleep with you on the first date. Hell, you'd be lucky to get her to...hmm, I forgot you already kissed her, so maybe I'm wrong. I don't seem to know her at all anymore.”
“Just as well, I suppose,” he said. “Not like it would have led to anything, not with me in Boston and she stuck in Catalpa Valley. She's not Ron's type though, so I think she's barking up the wrong tree.”
“That right?” Sophie said, feigning casual. “And what exactly is his type then?”
“Slutty, of course, and easy and superficial and dimwitted,” he said. “Especially dimwitted. He can't handle a smart girl. She'd walk all over him, after all, and then he'd be lost. At least he's smart enough to realize that much.”
Sophie frowned. Was that the reason Ronnie had little trouble refusing her? She was none of those things, in her not so humble opinion, that is.
“Sophie, I won't allow you to ruin my father's last chance at happiness,” said Simon, his voice deadly quiet.
Startled, she stared at him. “What?”
“You heard me,” he said, slightly menacing. “I can see you like Ron, but he's off limits to you. Do you understand?”
“Excuse me?” she said in an indignant huff. “Who the hell are you to...”
“I'm going to be your older brother and so is Ron, come hell or high water. So it is in--”
“You just said you didn't think it would ever happen.”
“I know what I said, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try everything within my power to make it happen even if that means keeping you and Ron away from each other. And when I set a goal, I always accomplish it. Trust me.”
“Okay, assuming you are right...”
“Which I am,” he retorted.
“What's the big deal? Ronny isn't...”
“You realize incest is a no-no, right?”
“Come off it! Incest...really? That's only for blood relatives,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“ I know Violet—pure as freshly fallen snow as she is-- that she would have a major problem with incest and that means she'd never agree to marry my father if she knew his son and her daughter had a thing for each other.”
Sophie stared at him, stunned. “You presume to know my mother very well, but I seriously doubt you do. She wouldn't care, not at all.”
He shook his head grimly. “I think it's you that doesn't know her own mother.”
Whether it was true or not, Sophie didn't know nor did she care, but just the fact that she and Ronny together could prevent her mom from doing the dumbest thing in the world—surely marrying Victor would be exactly that!-- was reason enough to continue with her plan to get Ronnie to like her.
“Whatever,” she said, shrugging and turning back to the TV.
“I'm serious, Sophie,” Simon said. “Don't get in their way or I'll bring the fury of hell down on you. I swear it.”
She slowly turned back to him, a devious smile on her face. “You don't scare me.”
“But you truly ought to be very scared, shitting-in-your-pants scared, in fact, cuz I can make your life a miserable, living hell. I promise you that,” he said, his voice low and menacing.
Somehow, she believed he could. A faint shiver went up her spine, but she wouldn't show fear. She shook her head and forced a laugh. “You're ridiculous. You act as if my mom is the last woman on Earth. I'm pretty sure your dad can have anybody he wants.”
“I know that and even he probably knows it, but that doesn't change the fact he wants Violet. He loves Violet and only Violet. Like my mother said, he's one of those pathetic types that once he falls for someone it sticks like glue.”
“Elmers or Gorilla?” she smirked.
“You think you're funny,” he said.
“And you think I'm an idiot,” she said. “It's a bit hard to take, you know, this ever loyal and faithful label you got for your father, cuz he's divorced, or have you forgotten that little fact? If he was as you describe him, he'd still be in love with your mother.”
“Had my mother not been the one to leave, he never would have. Had she not remarried two minutes after divorcing him he might still be hung up on her. Whatever love he had for my mother, she quickly ruined and extinguished with her harpy-like behavior toward him. I think that was her plan and it worked well. Now, being Violet would sooner skin her own cat and cook it in a stew before she acts like my mother, I'm rather certain Violet will never be able to dislodge herself from his heart. Wish it weren't the case, but there you have it. He'll love her forever. He's loved Violet for over a decade longer than she's known him. Did you know that?”
Sophie bit her lip and looked away. She did know that and it made her remember so clearly...a day so long ago, a precious memory....
Sophie and Richard had just put up a large hammock between two giant catalpa trees in the side yard of their home. After all the hard work they were now testing it and swinging slowly in it. She was no more than ten and she was already madly in love with Ronnie—the new kid in her class. She told her father all about him and he listened to every word.
“Well, I'll bet he's a nice boy, but he's just your first crush, so...”
“Oh, no, Daddy! I'll love him forever!” Sophie insisted. “He's wonderful!”
“Did you tell him that?” he asked.
“No! I can't do that. He doesn't even know me,” she said pouting. “Cindy Kervelick did though. She was all over him and I could tell he was annoyed.”
“If Cindy's anything like her mother it's understandable,” Richard mumbled. “Just as well you didn't. Boys don't wanna get serious so young and neither should you. You gotta lot of life ahead of you to be thinking of boys already.”
“Not boys! Just one boy. Just Ronnie,” she said. “He's so cute, Daddy! And he's not shorter than me! He's the only boy I know that's not shorter.”
Richard burst out laughing. “Oh, my Sophie, there will be a time when that doesn't much matter. You'll see, the boys will eventually catch up to you and even be taller so don't worry about that, okay?” he said, giving her a little squeeze.
They lay silent for a while, staring up at the canopy above them with dappled sunlight occasionally slipping through the large leaves.
“Daddy, when did you know you were in love with Mommy?” she asked. “Were you old, like twenty?”
He laughed and kissed the top of her soft blonde head. “Nope. Matter of fact, I was even younger than you when I knew she was the one for me.”
“We were in kindergarten.”
“Wow. Did you know she was gonna be your wife?”
“I knew it, but I had to wait a long time to convince her,” he said. “We didn't get together until we were fifteen.”
“Why? Didn't she like you before that, Daddy?”
“I'm not sure if she did or not, but her brother warned me that her father would never allow it, so...”
“You mean Uncle Freddy?”
“Yup, he told me to wait until the time was just right and I did and it worked out great,” Richard said, smiling dreamily into the large, heart shaped leaves over head.
“But how'd you do it, Daddy?” she asked earnestly. “How'd you get her to love you?”
“I just showed her how much I loved her, told her I could never love another,” he said.
“But...how?” Sophie asked.
“Well, I explained that if she didn't want me, I'd throw myself off a cliff cuz life wasn't worth living without her.”
“And it worked?”
He laughed. “Kinda, I said it but I don't think she believed me, but by that time, I guess she kinda fell for me anyway, and so...”
“You got married and lived happily ever after just like Snow White and Prince Charming!” Sophie shouted.
“Yup, kinda like that,” he said. “And here comes my girl now. Why dontcha go play, Sophie baby, so I can show Mommy how good our hammock hanging skills are?”
She jumped off just as Violet came over pushing a low hanging branch out of the way.
“Hi, Mommy, isn't the hammock cool?” Sophie said.
“Well, it is nifty, isn't it? Now I know where to look for the two of you when I want you to do something for me and you're nowhere to be found,” Violet said, running a loving hand over Sophie's soft hair.
“Yeah, and you can join me so we can do nothing together,” Richard said, grabbing her hand and pulling her on top of him, making the hammock swing wildly.
“Richard! What are you doing?” Violet shrieked.
“I'll show you in a minute,” he said. “Bye-bye, Sophie. Mommy and me are gonna take a nap.”
Sophie knew that wasn't exactly right as she walked across the yard listening to her mother giggling. Her mother was always giggling when her dad was around, but he wasn't around anymore and never would be again. Which explained why it had been so long since she heard Violet laughing like that.
Sophie came out of her daydream and turned back to Simon who all of a sudden took her hand in his. “What?” she said, confused.
“I made you cry,” he said.
She blinked stupidly and that's when she felt the tears slipping down her cheeks. She shook her head. “Just a memory. Love kinda sucks sometimes, doesn't it?” she whispered.
“I wouldn't know. I've never been in love, but I think you might be right,” Simon said.
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