“Darlin, it's time to get up. You don't wanna miss seeing your mom before she leaves for work.”
Sophie groaned and turned her head away from the weak winter light peeking in between the curtains. Her nose hit something furry.
She went to push it away, but a nagging memory struck her and her eyes flew open. Upon seeing her old teddy bear, her dream came back to her in stunning, vivid detail.
“Daddy...such a weird dream,” she whispered staring at the bear. Then she frowned.
If it had been a dream, how did the toy get on her bed when she had stored it away on the shelf? She noticed the bear's naked neck and felt around to her hair which--instead of being loose as she always liked it-- it was now neatly gathered in a ponytail and held at the nape of her neck with the bear's pink satin ribbon.
“Oh, my God...Daddy...” she muttered, slipping the ribbon out of her hair, staring at the neat little bow as if it were the miraculous cure for cancer. “It really happened.”
Richard smiled as his daughter stumbled out of bed, all tangled in the blankets, nearly falling in her haste. She tossed the sheets back onto the bed and ran barefoot down the stairs.
“Mom... Mom! You'll never beli... Mom?” Sophie stopped short watching Violet swiftly turn away, wiping at her face. “Mom, are you crying?”
Violet shook her head, hiding her face. “No, of course not...just something in my eye...eyelash or something,” she said, her voice husky.
“Mom, you are the world's worst liar ever,” Sophie said.
“Oh, really... do you know every liar in the world?” Violet asked, attempting a smile.
“Yeah, most of 'em are in Washington DC and the rest are in Albany.” Sophie went behind her mother, who sat at the kitchen table cradling a coffee cup in her hands, and hugged her. “I'm sorry, Mom.”
“Whatever for, Sweetie?”
“I've been so mean to you and I've been selfish.”
“No, you haven't. Why would you say that?”
“Oh, Mom...” Sophie said, giving her another squeeze before letting go and sitting next to her. “Don't you ever get tired of being so nice all the time?”
“Exhausted,” Violet replied with a giggle. “Why are you up so early? Didn't you stay up late baking?”
“Not too late, but listen,” Sophie said. “I want the truth, okay, Mommy?”
Mommy? Now that got her attention. Sophie hadn't called her that for over ten years.
“Please tell me once and for all, do you love Mr. Romanoff?”
Violet grimaced. “Sophie, I already... I'm not going to talk about this anymore,” she said standing up.
“Mom, please! Daddy says you do,” she said.
Violet gaped. “What did you say?”
“Mom, sit down. I gotta tell ya something,” Sophie said. Violet did. “Mom, you'll never believe this...I almost don't believe it. Geeze, Ronnie and Simon both said it was possible and I said they were crazy, but...”
“Sophie, you're rambling,” Violet said. “What are you talking about?”
“Daddy. He came to my room last night.” Sophie held out the pink satin ribbon still in a bow.
Violet frowned, not understanding the significance of the ribbon. “You saw Richard?”
“Yes,” Sophie said. “Really I did. I'm not lying!”
“I know you're not, Honey. He came to me, too, last night,” Violet said on a heavy sigh.
“He did?” Sophie said, shocked at her mother's blasé response. “But Mom, it's amazing! He was really there right in front of me. He was right there, Mom, like the same as me and you are right now. He hugged me and kissed me and...he tied this in my hair. I thought I was dreaming but...it was real, Mom. Daddy was...”
Sophie trailed off watching a tear fall out of the corner of her mother's eye. “Mom, you don't gotta be sad about it. This is great. He can come anytime he wants and be with us and...oh...Daddy's haunting you, isn't he?”
Violet wiped the tear away and ignored this. “Do you want me to make you anything for breakfast before I go to work?”
“You know I hardly ever eat breakfast,” Sophie muttered glancing up at the clock on the wall, frowning. “Mom, it's not even eight o'clock. You don't have to be at work til eleven.”
“I...I have some errands to do before work.”
Sophie sighed. Her mother was lying again, but about what and why? “What you gotta do so early? Bank and post office are both closed still and even the supermarket and dollar store won't be open for another hour.”
“Shows how much you know,” Violet said. “They started opening up earlier while you were in Miami.”
“But that's not where you're going, is it?”
“I...no,” Violet said, working her brain for a plausible excuse. “I have a friend I want to visit before work.”
“Oh...no one you know, co-worker of mine,” Violet said, taking her empty cup to the sink.
“If she's a co-worker don't you see her all the time...like... at work?”
“Uh...no. She's in the hospital and this is a horrible time of the year to be stuck there with nobody to visit you,” Violet said, confident in her reply as this part was true enough.
“Mom, about Daddy haunting you...” Sophie tried again.
“Then, I'll see you later,” Violet said ignoring her, closing the subject for good. She turned to go after drying her hands and carefully hanging the towel.
Just then a ding sounded. Sophie turned to her cell which was charging on the counter next to Violet's purse.
“Oh, shoot,” Violet muttered, picking up her purse. “I forgot to charge my phone last night.”
Sophie was reading a text from Cassandra and didn't hear this. “Mom, is is okay if I hang with Cassie today?”
“Sure, but I can't leave you the car.”
“Don't need it. Cassie says her dad will let her borrow his. There's a miracle!”
“Well, she needs a car to get to school and work so...”
“Mom,” Sophie said, after texting a reply. “Remember you told me a long time ago that your dad was real protective? So, how did you...”
“I never said that.”
Sophie looked up and frowned. “Oh yeah, it was Daddy that told me that. He never let you go to college, right?”
“I...I was going to go, but... Sophie, can we talk about this later? I really have to get going so I'm not late for work and I don't miss visiting hours at...uh, the hospital.”
“Don't you wanna know where we're going?” Sophie said, following her mother.
“Uh...I assumed shopping, no?” Violet said over her shoulder as she left the kitchen to get her coat and pull on boots in the foyer.
“She wants to go over to Ronnie's house, but her dad won't let her go if I don't go.”
“Well, then you have to go.”
“Hmm. She must really like Simon, though I can't see why,” Sophie said, making a face. “He's such an assho...”
“Don't say that! He's...a bit...I don't know... sarcastic, perhaps, but he...”
“Yeah, he's a sarcastic asshole,” Sophie said.
Violet laughed and kissed her daughter's cheek. “At least he is better by far than Antoine,” she said pointedly.
Sophie grimaced. “Why didn't I see him for the creep he was?”
“Love is blind?” Violet said, pushing Sophie's long hair over her shoulder almost like Richard had done the previous night.
“I never loved him!”
“Ah, well, then...I have no clue,” Violet said, opening the front door. “See you later. Call me if you need me to pick you up.”
Sophie waved, suddenly envisioning a way to do as her ghostly father demanded; helping her mother and Victor Romanoff get back together. Although it irked her to no end to give up Ronnie, she certainly didn't want to be the source of unhappiness for her mother. And who knows? Maybe she didn't really have to give up on him...yet.
“What do you mean my mother's not here?” Violet shrieked. “Of course she is! She's been here for over two decades!”
“She's been moved to another facility,” a nurse at the front desk informed her –an exceedingly young one whom Violet had never seen before.
“Under whose authority?” Violet asked, already knowing the answer and getting ready to rip her brother a new one for not telling her.
“Um...Her new doctor and ….uh...Fred Norton...says here he's Mrs. Norton's son so that makes him your brother, I guess,” the nurse said.
Violet rolled her eyes. "Yes, but who is this new doctor?”
“Uh...let me see here...” the nurse said rifling through the medical file. “Um... Ephraim Kruger.”
“Ephraim Kruger? Oh...Kruger...I'm gonna kill him,” Violet muttered, recalling the first time she heard that name, She didn't mean the doctor and she didn't just mean Freddy. “Do you know anything about this doctor? Where he's from, where they took my mother, what kind of doctor he is?”
“Um...” the nurse said, doing more searching through the papers in front of her. “I think neurologist. Yes, neurologist. He's supposed to be world renowned and...um...he works out of...here it is... The Neuroscience Institute of New Jersey.”
“How long has she been gone? When did they move her?”
“Um...I think... um...in Sept... no, October it says here,” the nurse said.
“Why didn't anybody tell me?” Violet said, angrily. “I've been coming a couple of times a month asking to see my mother and all I've gotten were lies! Every time I've been told my mother was not able to have visitors because of some disturbing behaviors, that she was going to hurt herself and all along she wasn't even here! Why all the secrecy? Why did you all lie to me? And no one thought I had the right to know about this change? I should sue all of you! Know what? That's exactly what I'll do. You ought to be very afraid because I have a great lawyer!”
With that ominous threat shouted for all to hear and fear, Violet stormed out of Mason Mental Institution, heading for the parking lot, digging in her bag for her car keys and her cell phone.
“Damn it!” she muttered, seeing her phone dead as a door nail. “Why can't I ever remember to charge the stupid thing?”
“Maybe that's a good thing...for Freddy cuz...he's so dead,” Richard said, smirking.
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