“Daddy!” Georgiana said, springing from her seat followed by Julian who shouted, “Daddy's here!”
Down on his knees Victor hugged his three kids simultaneously, but quickly hushed them and rushed them back to their seats.
“Glad you made it, Dad,” Simon said, shaking his hand.
“Dad, how'd ya get in with the garden Jehadist at the door?” Ronnie asked, moving over for him and taking Julian onto his own lap.
“Violet let me in,” Victor answered.
Ronnie grinned. “She's awesome.”
“Shhh...” Marty said, pointing to the stage where the choir was now in place behind the harps.
From that point on there was no more talking, but Georgiana held Victor's hand, Peter sat on his lap comfy as you please and Julian kept touching his arm as if to make sure he was real. Even Ronnie grinned at him. There was no doubt Victor was loved, so why did he feel the world caving in on him?
Ronnie nudged his father just as he was dozing off. “Huh?” Victor said, wondering how long he'd been sleeping.
Ronnie pointed at Georgiana who stared at the harps in complete awe. “She loves them!” he whispered. “Wants to take harp lessons... from me! As if I ever touched one. She's so cute, Dad.”
Victor, in turn, stared at the little girl he now called his daughter, his heart growing warm. What an amazing child she was. So eager to learn about everything and he knew this had to be encouraged or it could fade away. As he was apt to do, the beginnings of a plan evolved as the music played on.
When the concert was over and people started moving out of their seats, Victor realized Peter had fallen asleep. He couldn't exactly set his plan in action with a sleeping boy in tow, so he turned to Ronnie, but found he also had a sleeping Julian in his arms.
He then turned to Simon. “Can you take Peter for me, Simon? I need to speak to Walter,” Victor said. The distasteful expression on Simon's face made him frown. “It's just for a few minutes. I'll be right back.”
“It's okay, Mr. Romanoff, I'll take him,” Cassandra said.
Victor stared at her, bewildered. “I'm sorry...have we met?”
She smiled and shook her head. “I just know you're Ronnie and Simon's dad. I'm Cassandra Bellarosa...friend of Sophie's,” she said.
“Pleased to meet you, Cassandra,” Victor said.
“Hey, aren't you my friend too?” Ronnie whined.
“Of course you are, Ronnie,” she giggled and held out her arms for Peter.
“He's too heavy for you,” Simon said, reluctantly taking the boy from his father. “Who are you going to see?”
“Walter Bettencort, the garden director. He's right over there, so I'll be back soon,” Victor said, taking Georgiana's hand. “Come with me, sweetie.”
“Me?” she said in surprise, but she trotted along beside him curiously looking around.
“What's he up to?” Simon asked. “Looks like a man on a mission.”
“It was a wonderful concert,” Cassandra said, shrugging. “He's probably going to tell him how much we all enjoyed it...although... he didn't ask if we did, did he?”
Simon shook his head. “No, he's up to something...I can tell,” he said, shifting the sleeping boy to his other shoulder, hoping he wasn't drooling on him. “So, what are we supposed to do now?”
“Would you like to walk in the garden for a while?” she asked. “It's really pretty.”
“With Peter?” Simon said.
“I meant with me, too. Geeze, you can be dense,” she muttered irritably.
“I meant I'd rather we go alone,” he said. “Without the brat.”
“At present it's not an option, so...” she grabbed his elbow and steered him out of the music room and into the main section of the conservatory where the rushing water from the waterfall and small stream could be clearly heard over the rabble of the crowd.
“Well, how did you like the concert?” Violet asked them.
“Loved it!” Cassandra said. “Thank you so much for inviting me, Mrs. Bennett. I had a great time. All day was fun...with the guys and Sophie.”
“I'm glad, Cassie,” Violet said. “Are you feeling better now? No ill affects from last night's adventure?”
“Oh, yeah, perfect now,” she answered. “But I'll never take another sip of anything destined for Sophie. That's for sure!”
“Yes,” Violet said, uncomfortably thinking of what might have happened to her own daughter had Cassandra not been there to take the bullet for her. “Um...where is your father, Simon?”
“He went to talk to the garden director. Kinda weird,” he replied.
“No, not really. They are good friends, you know,” Violet said.
“Yeah, but the weird thing is he took Georgiana with him and no one else. What's that about?”
Violet made a funny face as the absurd notion made her wonder if Georgiana was going to get a job offer as he had done with Violet less than a year ago.
At that moment Sophie wandered over alongside Ronnie and Julian who just woke up and rubbed his eyes.
“Hi, Violet,” Julian said. “Ronnie put me down. I'm not a baby!”
“Didn't say you were, Jules, but you were sleeping. Dad wouldn't have liked it if I just left you there, you know,” Ronnie said, grinning at Violet as he set the boy down.
“Hello, Julian, didn't you like the music?” Violet asked.
“It was okay. Where's Daddy?” Julian said anxiously. “Did I dream he was here?”
“He'll be back soon. He's just talking to an old friend,” Violet assured.
“Mom, it was too bad you didn't get to see the concert,” Sophie said. “It was really nice.”
“I got to hear it...just as good,” she replied forcing a smile.
“You okay, Violet?” Simon asked. “You look... sad. Ron, take this kid, will ya?”
“But you look just like a daddy,” Sophie teased. “Ain't he cute, Cassie?”
“I've seen better,” Cassandra answered, then giggled at the hurt expression on Simon's face.
“Come here, Peter, I'm the only one who loves you, apparently,” Ronnie said, taking the boy into his arms. Peter remained fast asleep. “Well, should we go home now?”
“You don't have to. The Conservatory's open for another hour. Why don't you take the tour of the Christmas tree displays. Each one is different, there are pretty flowers everywhere and...well, it's just a nice place to be,” Violet suggested.
“Ooh, I'd like that! I haven't been here since our third grade field trip. I should tell my father about this place so we can come in spring time. Ought to be really nice then,” Cassandra said brightly although there was a tiny crease between her eyes.
“It's spectacular, but I think it's great all the time,” Violet said, then she pointed behind Ronnie. “Julian, here comes Vic...I mean, your father.”
“Daddy!” Julian shouted and ran to him while Georgiana ran straight to Ronnie, beaming so much she could barely speak.
“Hey, where ya been, Georgie?” Ronnie asked, shifting his eyes to the program she held in her trembling hands. “What ya got there?”
“I met them, Ronnie...all of them! And they signed this for me too...all of them!” she gushed.
“Who?” he asked, bewildered.
“The harp ladies! Oh, they're so nice and guess what?”
Ronnie smiled. “What?”
“One of them... uh...Katarina ...uh,” She looked down at the paper in her hand trying to decipher the writing ...Ana...Ara...Ar...gon...opo...lous...or something...anyway, she comes to Meridale a lot cuz her mom lives here and guess what? She said I can visit them and try the harp. Her Mom has one too. She's a music teacher. Can you believe it?”
“Wow, that is so cool,” Ronnie said.
“Dad said he would take me. He's so awesome!” Georgiana said.
“Yep, he is,” he said.
“I just can't wait!” Georgiana said, throwing her arms around Ronnie's middle unperturbed by Peter's shoes dangling in her face.
“Wow, couldn't imagine how excited you'd be if you actually met a real celebrity like Katy Perry or Ariana Grande ,” Sophie said.
"Sophie..." Ronnie said menacingly.
"Sophie..." Ronnie said menacingly.
Georgiana glared at her. “They suck. They can't sing, don't write their own music, don't play any instruments and are horrible people. If you were talking about Taylor Swift or Ingrid Michaelson that would be different.” She then turned away to tell Violet her exciting news.
Sophie stared in surprise. She then turned to Ronnie. “You taught her that?”
“No! She's got a mind of her own,” he said. Then he too turned away from Sophie. “Hey, Dad, way cool.”
“What?” he said.
“Having Georgie meet the harp ladies. Never seen her so happy!” Ronnie said.
“It was nothing,” Victor said, sadly. “Wish I could always make my kids happy.”
“I'm happy, Daddy,” Julian said. “Now that you're here with us.”
“Thanks, Jules,” Victor said, hugging the little boy before setting him down on his own feet. “Time for us to go home.”
“Don't you wanna talk a while with Violet, Dad?” Ronnie said. “It's a good time.”
He shook his head. “It's late for the kids, but you guys can stay as long as you like. Let me take Peter from you, Ronnie, and we'll see you home later,” Victor said.
Ronnie frowned as he watched his father grab Georgiana by the hand, bid Violet a stoic good night and lead the way outside into the cold, starless night.
“What's that you keep telling me about us being siblings very soon?” Sophie said, smirking. “I think your dad has more important things on his mind.”
“Yeah,” Ronnie said, now thoroughly worried himself.
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