Monday, July 27, 2015

Chapter 265 The one good thing



Simon had been about to take Cassandra's hand in his when he spotted Victor and the kids leaving the conservatory.

Hey, Dad!” he shouted and ran to catch them before they left.

We'll meet you home, Simon. No need to hurry home or are you staying with your mother tonight?” Victor asked wearily.

Your house if that's okay,” Simon answered. “But Dad, why are you leaving so soon? You didn't get a chance to speak to Violet or Gramma and Morris and.... Violet seems a little down and I thought you could...”

Simon, the kids are tired. It's way past their bed time,” Victor said.

Simon struggled for a moment then said something he never thought he'd voluntarily say. “I'll take them home for you then. I'll... I'll give baths, tuck them in, read stories, whatever it takes, and you can stay and...”


Simon, I appreciate it, really I do, but I'm tired, too, and I want to spend as much time as I can with my kids while I can,” he said.

What do you mean while you can?” Simon asked, a shiver of trepidation running along his spine. “Dad, are you...?”

Go back inside and have a nice time with that pretty little Sandra, okay? She seems nice. Good night, Simon,” Victor said before ushering the kids toward the exit which led to the administration building and the parking lot.

Sandra?” Simon muttered incredulously, watching them go. When had his father ever gotten a name wrong? “Shit...this is not good!”

What isn't?”

Startled, he turned and found Cassandra smiling up at him. “My dad. Something's wrong,” he said.

Her smile instantly vanished. “Like...what? Is he sick?”

That's just it, I don't know, but I have to find out. I have to leave, try to catch up with them. After the kids are in bed I can talk to him and...” Simon drifted off staring at her as if putting every feature to memory. He then touched her cheek letting his thumb pass over her lips. “Can I call you?”

She giggled. “I dunno, can you?”

I mean would you mind if I called you...maybe take you out for a real date?” he said.

This wasn't real enough for you?” she asked.

Yes, but we weren't exactly alone.”

Why in the world would you want to get me alone?”

He chuckled. “You're gonna make me work for this, aren't you?”

Yes, yes I am!” she said brightly.

Perhaps that's why I like you,” he said and before she could respond he kissed her. He slipped the car keys into her hand. “Ronnie can take you home, okay, Cassie?”

That's Cassandra to you,” she said breathlessly.

Are you ever going to tell me why you won't let me call you Cassie?”

Cuz...cuz I like how it sounds when you say my full name and....only the most important people in my life call me by my full name... and those I hope to one day be important to me,” she said.

I feel honored,” he said seriously.

You should be. I'm very special, you know,” she said, grinning.

He smiled. “I'm starting to see that,” he said, before one last kiss. “Good night, Cassandra.”

She watched him sprint across the foot bridge over the babbling brook and exit the conservatory, sadness seeping into her. “I wish Papa would like you, but he won't...he won't.”

Ronnie's thoughts were along the same line as his brother—he should go home and find out what was bothering his father-- but there were the girls to consider. All he could do was try to get them to agree to go home as soon as possible. Maybe if he talked to Simon, between the two of them they could convince the girls to leave.

Ronnie? Ronnie? Planet Earth to Pluto!” Sophie said, tugging on his arm.

Huh?”

There you are! Thought you were gone for good,” Sophie said.

What?” he said, bewildered.

I've been talking to you for the last five minutes and you obviously didn't hear any of it. Something wrong?”

Uh...yeah, I...”

Hi, guys,” Cassandra said.

Cassie, where's Simon? I gotta tell him something,” Ronnie said, looking around the conservatory for him.

He left with your dad. You're supposed to take us home, but could we walk around a little first? It's so nice here...like another world,” Cassandra said wistfully.

Yeah, sure,” Ronnie said, his hope of getting home soon dashed.

They strolled down the paths, now empty of most of the people who had come for the concert.

Must be fun for your mom to work here,” Casandra said.

She loves it,” Sophie said. “Even in the middle of winter it's like spring in here.”

Oooh, let's check out the children's garden!” Cassandra squealed excitedly watching in amazement as the dancing water seemed to shoot up and down the ramp in synchronized arches. “That is so cool!”

I think my mom helped design this place. It really does look great!” Sophie said, looking above their heads to the three gargoyles spitting out water into a large stone basin at the base of what gave the appearance of a castle tower with ivy and blooming vines growing on it.

It's straight out of a fairy tale! Come on, lets go in here,” Cassandra said ducking slightly to get through a shallow, stone tunnel which led to a courtyard festooned with more flowering vines and raised beds filled with scented herbs.

Hello, real size people to planet munchkin,” Sophie said crossing her arms over her chest. “Only you and a few second graders can fit in there!”

Cassandra stared at them over a hedge from the other side—both of them stood much more than her five foot three inches—Ronnie in particular about six foot five would be lucky if he didn't hit his head even if he got onto his knees.

Hmm...I see what you mean. That's what I get for going around with giants.”

Go ahead and look around, Cassie,” Ronnie said. “We'll wait for you here...just like parents do I imagine.”

What are ya talking about? My mom would fit in there fine!” Sophie said, laughing.

True.”

After Cassandra had had her fun in the children's garden and they strolled through all the themed garden rooms, each with its own Christmas tree, it was closing time for the conservatory and time for them to go home.

I'll see you at home, Mom,” Sophie said when they met Violet at the exit where she was stationed to bid everyone leaving a good night.

It was so nice to see you all here,” Violet said.

You're coming to our Christmas party, next week, right, Violet?” Ronnie said, kissing her cheek.

I...uh...”

We're coming,” Sophie said, giving her mother a significant look. “See ya soon, Mom.”

It'll take me well over an hour before I'm home, Honey, so don't stay up,” Violet said.

"I'm a night owl, Mom, remember?" Sophie said, waving as she followed Cassandra and Ronnie to the exit.

I don't wanna go home yet,” Cassandra whined. “But I'm sure you're anxious to talk to your dad, too, huh, Ronnie?”

Ronnie stared at her as he held the door open for them. “Did Simon say something to you?”

Just that he's worried about him. Didn't say why though,” she said.

Cassandra nearly had to jog to keep up with the other two, whose long legs simply took them further and faster than hers could.

Once they were all in the car, Ronnie said, “I'll drop you off first, Sophie.”

Why?” she protested. “Thought we could hang out...wait for my mom to get home.”

I don't mind,” Cassandra said. “You could drop me off at Danford's if it's easier.”

"It's not unless I drop off Sophie first. Your house is out of the way from here, Cassie. I'd be backtracking to get back to my house. Easier to go to your house first, Sophie,” Ronnie said. He could tell Sophie was annoyed, but that was the least of his worries at the moment.

Aren't you at least gonna walk me to the door?” Sophie said once he pulled into the driveway.

Whoa, feminism only when it's good for you, huh?” he said.

Cassandra giggled. “She just wants you to kiss her good night. Go ahead, I won't look. Promise!”

I'm not kissing my sister!” he growled.

"Think you already did..." Cassandra mumbled to herself.

I'm not your sister,” Sophie snapped.

Yet!” he shouted.

Sophie rolled her eyes and left the car. At the door, she turned in time to see Cassandra slip into the front seat, where Sophie had just been sitting. “I might have to kill my best friend,” she muttered.

Really, Ronnie, you can take me to Danfords which is closer than my house. Frankie always has some paperwork for me to do and I hate when it piles up for days before I get to it...just makes it worse,” Cassandra said.

Okay, if you want,” he said.

Fifteen minutes later, they were pulling into a parking lot of Danfords which was surprisingly crowded for midweek.

Is this place ever slow?” Ronnie asked parking in the only remaining slot between two cars, both of which had fogged up windows. He was vaguely relieved that Sophie wasn't here to see it—it would have just given her ideas!

Anyway, it was fun today hanging with you,” he said. “We'd really like it if you could come to the Christmas party...even for just a little while. Be fun.”

I'll see what I can do. Um...Ronnie,” she said nervously. “Would you mind...I mean... it's not that I'm trying anything with you...you know, like Sophie, but...uh, could you walk with me inside... just til Frankie sees me?”

You don't feel safe?” Ronnie asked. “Is it cuz of Antoine? He wouldn't dare come back around here!”

I'm not too sure he's not still in the hospital. Frankie told me his goons really put a beating on him,” she said with a laugh.

He deserved it!” Ronnie said. “So...why do you want an escort? I don't mind, it's just...”

He stepped out of the truck and went around to Cassandra's side opening the door for her and helping her out. It was a long way down in that truck for such a small person, after all.

I want Frankie to see you're a nice guy, a gentleman and that he can trust you,” she said.

"Why does he have to trust me? It's Simon that..."

"My brother and father are weird like that. They figure your whole family reflects on you so...whoops!" she said, grabbing his arm when she slipped on a patch of ice and nearly fell.

Hey! Careful,” he said putting his arm around her until they reached the door. “Does your brother have any cat litter around? He'll probably get sued if anybody falls on this ice.”

Good idea. I'll show you where it is,” she said.

Ronnie grabbed a couple of bags and spread the stuff over the icy spots. Then they went inside.

Holy crap! Your brother must be getting rich with this place,” he shouted over the music.

"I do the books so, not really, but, he does okay," she said. “It's not usually this busy except on weekends. This is just the kids coming back home for Christmas. They'll mostly be gone soon after the new year. You'll be leaving too, probably, just like Sophie.”

Not so sure about that, Cassie,” Ronnie said following her to the bar, four people deep all around. “I have no idea what I'm gonna do. Geeze, how can your brother handle this by himself?”

"Oh, my God, why is he all alone? Frankie!” Cassandra shouted to him after sneaking behind the bar with Ronnie right behind her.

Thank God you're here!” Frankie said. “I need help!”

What...pouring drinks? You know I don't know a screw driver from a Tequila sunrise! What happened to Candice?” Cassandra asked.

Slipped on the ice outside and twisted her ankle,” he snarled. “I'll be up shit's creek if she decides to sue me. Dozen more will fall out there, too, with all that ice.”

"Ronnie spread some cat litter on the steps so no one else should get hurt," Cassandra said.

"Thanks," Frankie distractedly said, handing out drinks. "Cassandra, you get the orders and collect the money, okay?"

Um...can I help somehow?” Ronnie said, watching Frank serving drinks while Cassandra managed the money.

Know how to pour beer?” Frankie asked.

Ronnie shrugged. “I went to a few frat parties in college and...” 

"Say no more. Get started. Beer, keep 'em coming til I tell you to stop," Frankie said.

"All right," said Ronnie, grabbing a glass and putting it under the tab. 

It was the one good thing he learned at school.



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