“How the hell long does it take to put three kids to bed?” grumbled Simon who had been waiting for his father in the den downstairs for what he thought was far too long.
He got up and started pacing, looking at his cell phone for the umpteenth time. Perhaps if Ronnie answered the phone or had returned from taking the girls home already Simon wouldn't have been so ticked off, but it was nearly midnight—over an hour after they should all have gotten back from the garden and no Ronnie.
What the hell was he doing? Well, Simon had a strong suspicion.
If his stupid brother was with Sophie all this time, doing what Ronnie usually did with sexy girls, Simon would have to kill him. Of course, if Ronnie was with Cassandra instead doing what he usually did with sexy girls, Simon would have to torture his brother before killing him extremely painfully.
After rounding the large desk for the forth time he pulled out his cell again and sent another text to Ronnie: Where are you????
He called, too, then waited and waited and waited, but got no answer and his father had still not come down. “The hell with this crap!” he said and he bounded up the stairs taking the steps two at a time.
He looked into the boys' bedroom first, but it was noiseless and dark in there, save for a Spiderman night light, the boys were fast asleep and his father was nowhere in sight.
Then he heard a faint voice down the hall. There was a sliver of light shining into the hall from Georgiana's bedroom and as he approached the door the sound became more distinct. It was Georgiana and she appeared to be reading from a familiar book:
“Did he eat it?” said Fred excitedly, holding out a hand to pull Harry to his feet.
“Yeah,” said Harry, straightening up. “What was it?”
“Tongue...no, Ton tum...no, Tum.... Ton.... Tom tongue...Toffee...
“That's hard to say,” Georgiana said, repeating the words over and over until she could say them without messing up.
Simon watched her for a minute and he had to smile. His father was soundly sleeping beside her as she sat up in the narrow twin bed reading aloud.
“Ironically, Ton Tongue Toffee is a tongue twister,” he said needlessly, leaning casually on the doorjamb. “What you reading?”
Looking guilty, she held up the large hardcover book, so he could see the title on the book jacket; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
“Thought so. Loved that story,” he said. “My mother gave it to me for my ninth birthday if I remember right.”
She nodded. “I know. It says it on the inside cover,” she said. “You mad at me for reading your books?”
He smiled and shook his head, looking up to find his entire collection of Harry Potter books, the Lemony Snicket collection, Rick Riordan's Heros of Olympus series, several JRR TolKien's novels, and many other books crammed onto a shelf beside her desk. “I don't like reading books more than once. You're welcome to as many of my old books as you like. I might have more at my mom's house you might like. I'll bring them over for you.”
“Wow, that...that's real nice,” she said. “Thank you, Simon.”
“So, did you know Dad's fallen asleep?” he asked, pointing at him.
“You know it's a little late to be reading, right? You look very tired.”
She nodded again.
“So...why didn't you wake him up so you can get to sleep?”
She looked down at Victor. “Cuz...cuz it's nice just to be near him, even if he is asleep. He hasn't been around much this week.”
“I see,” Simon said. “You kinda like him, huh?”
She shook her head fervently. “I love him tons! We all do,” she said in a fierce whisper. “You're so lucky he's your dad, Simon.”
“He's yours too now, so that makes you lucky as well,” he said, amused by her fervor.
“Yeah, but he's your real dad. I hardly remember my real dad and what I do remember isn't very good. Julian doesn't remember him at all and Peter never knew him. He was too little when he left. He never cared about any of us...never cared how upset he got my mom. I wish...” She stopped abruptly and busied herself by putting the bookmark in a spot a few pages back from where she ended her reading.
“What do you wish, Georgiana?” Simon asked softly.
She shrugged. “Nothing. It's silly.”
“Wishes are never silly. They may seem it but that's why we make wishes...in the hope of making the impossible real,” he said. “What do you wish?”
She remained silent for a minute then looked at Victor again before facing Simon. “I wish he was my real dad, cuz if...if he was, my mom would still be alive,” she whispered.
Simon pondered that a moment and thought better than to tell her the truth, how that never would have happened for many reasons. “You don't know that for sure. From what I know of your mother, she may have had an illness which...”
She shook her head. “My dad was the illness,” she angrily said, loud enough to awaken Victor with a start.
“Hey...what happened to Dudley's tongue?” he said.
She giggled. “We'll find out next time, okay, Daddy? I'm kinda sleepy now.”
He sat up and dropped a kiss on her forehead. “Okay, my love. Can't wait. Wonder if he'll have to go to the hospital like he did for the curly pig tail Hagrid gave him last time,” he said standing up.
“Come on, Dad, don't you remember when we...” Simon stopped when his father shook his head ever so slightly.
“Remember what?” Georgiana asked, leaning back onto her pillows, pulling the blanket up to her chin.
“Uh...that we have something to discuss before we go to sleep,” Simon said. “Good night, Georgiana. I hope Harry Potter doesn't give you nightmares.”
“No, he never does,” she said her eyelids drooping. “I had nightmares before... when I couldn't wake up my mom... but they stopped when we came to live here. Night-night, Simon. Night-night, Daddy. I love you tons.”
“Good night, Sweetheart. I love you, too,” said Victor as he and Simon exchanged somber looks. Then Victor turned out the light and closed the door behind them.
“Can I say something?” Simon asked stopping at the top of the stairs.
“Best thing you ever did was adopt those kids. They worship you, Dad,” Simon said and he went down the stairs.
“If I only believed that,” Victor muttered too low for Simon to hear.
“So, Dad,” Simon said sitting on the sofa, waiting for Victor to take his seat in his favorite recliner.
“Yes?” Victor said wearily falling into his chair. “Where's Ronnie? In bed already?”
“No, he's not come back yet,” Simon said, angrily.
“Well, he does like girls, doesn't he? He's young. He should have fun while he can,” Victor replied, oblivious to Simon's bad mood.
“He better not be having fun with Cassandra,” Simon snapped.
“Who? Oh, yes, the pretty girl you were with at the garden,” Victor said. “He wouldn't do that to you, Simon, I'm sure. Especially if he knows you are interested in her. How long have you and she...”
“About two minutes,” Simon said frowning.
Victor grinned. “Must have been an amazing two minutes then.”
“You could say that,” Simon replied.
“Where did you meet?”
Simon sighed. This wasn't what he wanted to discuss at the moment, but it confirmed his worst fears; his father's memory was failing him. “Dad, it was yesterday...last night, when we rescued Sophie from the would-be rapist. It was Cassandra who drank the tainted soda and got all loopy. Don't you remember any of that?”
“Oh... She was the one,” he said vaguely. “She seemed nice...from what little I saw of her tonight. You should bring her to the Christmas party.”
“Already invited her, but I'm not sure she can make it. All her family is coming up for the holidays and...whatever,” Simon said impatiently. “Dad, what's wrong?”
“Why...what do you mean?”
“Dad, I've never seen you like this.”
“You're obviously sick!”
Victor stared at him, apparently confused, then without warning burst out laughing.
“What is so funny?”
“Simon, you have to stop doing that.”
“What exactly am I doing?”
“Perhaps medical school wasn't such a good idea for you....worst place for a reverse hypochondriac, if there is such a thing."
"First you insisted Violet was pregnant...”
"First you insisted Violet was pregnant...”
“When she fainted? Are you telling me I was wrong, that fainting isn't something serious which should be checked out?”
“Okay, bad example...she was indeed ill. You were right about that, but, Simon, not everything can be attributed to illness. I'm perfectly fine.”
Simon shook his head. “Bullshit, Dad! Look at you,” he shouted standing up, pacing in front of the coffee table. “You look like shit! You're worn out, you're distracted, You were dozing off at the concert, you fell asleep just now in Georgiana's bed while reading a story and you couldn't remember Cassandra's name just now which we told you last night when we got back from Violet's house and I told you again at the garden just a couple of hours ago. Something is definitely wrong with you!”
Victor sighed. “Yes, something is...up. I've not been sleeping well at night, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with illness.”
Simon frowned. “Is it...Violet?”
“Nope, nothing whatsoever to do with her.”
“It's work related?”
Victor, ever the lawyer choosing his words carefully, said, “It's a legal matter, yes.”
“And you're not willing to tell me what it is?” Simon asked, already knowing the answer.
“Got a law degree, have you?” Victor said, smirking. “It's nothing serious, Simon.”
“I don't believe you, you know...not for a minute,” Simon said. “I wish you'd confide in me, Dad. I'm not a child anymore and I'm not an idiot. I could help. ”
“No, you never were an idiot,” he said proudly. “But perhaps you're too smart for your own good.”
“What does that mean?” Simon said, taken aback.
“You're not an idiot, you just told me, so you figure it out.”
“Dad, just tell me what...”
“Drop it, Simon. It's nothing that need concern you. I will handle it,” Victor said standing up and stretching. “Good night, Simon. I have some reading to do before I get to bed.”
Victor went to his office, shutting the door behind him, leaving Simon aggravated and confused.
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