Violet trudged into the house feeling exhausted. All she wanted was a hot cup of tea, a warm bed to fall into for a long, dreamless sleep, and not to wake up until next week. Of course, why would she expect anything to go her way now when barely anything had all day?
“Hey, Mom!” came Sophie's voice from the kitchen.
“Hi, Honey, can you put the kettle on for me? I desperately need some tea. I'm chilled to the bone,” Violet said, as she removed her coat and snowy boots.
“Sure, then we can talk.”
Violet nearly groaned. It was the very last thing she wanted to do just now. Not that she didn't love her daughter and chatting with her was often extremely enjoyable, but after a day like she's had—and such a long one filled with disappointed hope-- she'd much rather sit comatose for a few minutes and then go to bed.
“Sophie, I'm so tired, can't we talk in...what in the world?” Violet shrieked and stopped dead in her tracks upon entering the kitchen and seeing what looked like the remains of a hurricane. “What is all this?”
“What does it look like? I'm baking cookies,” Sophie said, wiping her floury hand on Violet's usually spotless apron. “Remember those fancy cookies we made a long time ago for Mr. Bellarosa? They were vanilla-y and sweet with a bit of jelly in the center. I remember making little balls with the dough and rolling them in coconut flakes and chopped nuts and sprinkles and tiny chocolate chips and stuff. Each cookie was different. He loved them...said they reminded him of some delicate Italian pastry he used to love as a child...don't remember what he called them. But anyway, I thought I'd make him some for Christmas. I looked everywhere for the recipe and...”
“Obviously,” Violet muttered looking in horror at what had to be every single cook book she owned on the kitchen table all askew with the bookmarks she had kept in strategic places for decades marking favorite recipes removed and tossed aside. And people wondered why she didn't like anyone in her kitchen! “Sophie, you couldn't just have asked where it was?”
“I did text you but you didn't answer...you never do!” Sophie said.
“Not while I'm driving I don't,” Violet replied, dropping into a seat, trying to repair her books to an orderly stack before placing them back on the shelf from whence they came.
“Not ever, Mom. You've sent me exactly two texts and that was only cuz I asked you to text Aunt Laurie and Valerie's new cell numbers.”
“Texting is annoying. If it's that important why not call? I assume you found it...the recipe.”
“I think it's this one,” Sophie said holding up a page ripped out of a magazine. “Thumbprint cookies, right?”
“That's them,” Violet said just as the kettle whistle blew a piercing sound. “Why couldn't you do this in the morning?”
“Cuz I wasn't gonna sleep yet anyway. I've been waiting for Cassie to call me like she was supposed to when she got home, but I'm guessing she's getting the third degree from her father. She might not be allowed to use her phone. I wouldn't put it past that tyrant to take it away from her.”
“Don't call him that, sweetie,” Violet said pouring water over a tea bag in a mug. “He's just...”
“Yes, which means he cares very much,” she said.
“You can't care too much about people you love.”
“Speaking of people you love...” Sophie said, rolling a ball of dough in a bowl of coconut flakes. “I had an interesting day today.”
A shiver of trepidation ran up Violet's spine. “Oh?” she said, stirring honey into her tea.
“Yes, I met Ronnie's mother today.”
Violet stared at her for a minute before responding. "Yes, I saw her at the concert with Andy and the baby,” Violet said, sitting with her hands wrapped around the mug to warm them and a crease between her brows wondering where this was going.
“That's not where I met her. We all had lunch with her,” Sophie said. “Surprisingly, she had wonderful things to say about you. So...exactly how did you two become friends?”
“Uh....Oh, you know...we met, hit it off,” Violet said, almost choking on the lie.
“I have never met anyone who was more the exact opposite of you and you're like...best buds or something according to her. What the heck's that about?”
“Hardly best buds. Just...we met at a Halloween party,” Violet said, expecting a headache to start at any moment.
“Yes, I know. She showed us the pictures and a video of you with tons of little princesses singing. Now I know where I got the performance bug from.”
“Oh, Lordy,” Violet said, that headache starting right on cue. “The girls wanted me to join them. I didn't want to, but...they were nervous and....”
“Loved that costume,” Sophie said, putting the last dough ball on the baking sheet and sticking her thumb onto the first ball to form an indentation in the center. “That doesn't look right. The cookie just broke in half. What am I doing wrong?”
“Just use your knuckle but don't push it in too far or the cookie will split while baking.”
“Hmm, that does work better,” Sophie said, making the small indentations on each dough ball. Then she opened a jar of apricot preserves. “So...you in love with Mr. Romanoff?”
Violet spluttered on her tea. “What...what?”
“I saw the pictures of this Halloween party—loads of them and I saw you kissing him,” Sophie said, clearly accusing. She took two small spoons and filled the centers of each cookie with the preserves. “You lied to me again, Mom.”
“No, I didn't. I told you...”
“Yeah, I know what you said, the good old standby answer...we're just friends, I love him as a friend...but that was obviously just a bunch of bull. Nobody ever kisses a just-a-friend like that and before you say anything else about just friends, I saw the video. That was no peck on the cheek.”
Violet blushed bright pink. “I...I don't care right now if you believe it or not. We've already discussed this, Sophie. I told you why I won't go beyond friendship with him and I'm certainly not in the mood to go over this with you all over again.” She took her tea cup with her as she made to leave the kitchen.
“Don't you care why I don't want you to be in love with Mr. Romanoff?” Sophie hurriedly said. “You're right. I wouldn't mind if you fell in love with any other man. It's just him I don't want you to be with....especially not him.”
Violet slowly turned and stared at her, baffled. “Okay, why?”
“Because...because if you marry him I'll never get a chance with Ronnie,” Sophie said.
“A chance for what?” Violet said.
“Mom, you're not that dumb. You can't be so blind,” Sophie said.
Violet sighed. “You still like Ronnie. Yes, I suspected you still have a crush...”
“No, Mom, not just a silly crush, not just like. I love him. I'm head over heels, crazy in love with him. I always have been but now....after really getting to talk to him and know him and everything...I adore him. And you with his father, you're ruining everything!”
“How? What does that have to do with you and Ronnie?”
“It matters to him! Apparently I'm off limits because of the far off chance that his father might be able to convince you to marry him someday which will make us related.”
“Only by...” Violet shook her head. “There is no blood relation so...”
“He doesn't see it that way, Mom. He already thinks of me as his step-sister and he's...”
“Oh, he does not. Sophie, have you really talked to him about it? He must know it doesn't matter.”
“I have talked to him. I've practically thrown myself at him and all he does is say we can't cuz we're almost siblings. It's crazy stupid!”
“Sophie, it couldn't be...I mean, it sounds like maybe he just is using that as an excuse to let you down easy. Perhaps he's just not that into you,” Violet said, although she didn't sound too convinced about it herself.
Sophie shook her head. “Mom, I know when a guy likes me and he does, or he's starting to really like me...a lot, but he's just being ridiculous about you and his father.”
“Okay, assuming he does like you, what can I do about it?” Violet asked.
“Just tell Mr. Romanoff once and for all that you're not ever gonna marry him. Please, Mom,” Sophie said. “Make him understand it will never happen. Just tell him outright and tell Ronnie and Simon too, cuz they won't believe me.”
Violet opened her mouth to tell her she couldn't, wouldn't do that, but then she recalled Victor's cold greeting today, how he barely could stand to look at her, or talk to her, or to spend any time with her. He clearly wanted nothing to do with her...not anymore. Whatever they once had was no more.
“You don't really have to worry about it, Sophie. Victor and I are done. He made it quite apparent tonight that we are barely friends anymore, let alone...He couldn't get away from me soon enough,” Violet shook her head. “The boys and the little ones will eventually figure it out if he hasn't told them already. Now, if you'll allow me to go to bed, I might have energy enough to get up tomorrow, go to work and do it all over again. Night, Honey,” Violet said, and she dragged herself up the stairs, Calendula at her heels.
Sophie should have been elated, but that look of utter despair on her mother's face was hard to take. Could it be true? Had something happened that caused Victor to give up on her mother at long last? Sophie couldn't imagine it...not after what he told her. The only other man she saw so in love was her own father. So, what happened? She bit her lip, suddenly feeling guilty, but it didn't last long. Now she could have Ronnie.
She grabbed her cell phone—despite the flour all over her hands--and sent a text message to Cassandra:
U ok? ur dad mad? need to talk to u. Call me.
She wanted to text Ronnie, but she never got his number. She'd have to correct that....unless....
Another text to Cassandra:
You got Simon's #? or Ronnie's? Call me.
She waited for a minute for Cassandra to respond then she went back to her baking. It took another hour and a half to get all the cookies baked and the kitchen cleaned and somewhat back to normal. She checked her cell but no texts and no calls. She sighed and went up to bed.
Upon passing her mother's room, Sophie had the urge to tap on the door, but her mother was likely fast asleep and not in the mood for any more talking, so she went passed the door into her own room down the hall.
Had she opened Violet's bedroom door at that moment she might have been surprised to see her mother wide awake, staring up at the dark ceiling, bitter tears slipping from the corners of her eyes, soaking her pillow.
“Do I love him, she asked?” Violet repeated Sophie's question to herself. “You bet your ass I do...for what good it does me now.”
She sighed, rolled over wiping her eyes on the sheet, and tried to get some sleep.
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