Ronnie went back to the kitchen to find only Simon sitting at the table shaking his head as he perused their father's daily copy of the Wall Street Journal.
“Why Dad needs this archaic form of getting news is beyond me,” Simon muttered. “He could read all this and so much more up-to-date stuff online and not have this black ink all over his hands.”
“He's old fashioned, I guess,” Ronnie said. “Where are the kids?”
“I'm sure they're all somewhere pouting until Dad returns home,” Simon answered.
“You yelled at them and scared them off, didn't you? Dammit, Simon, why you gotta be such a douche? They're just little kids. You don't hafta be so mean to them and what the hell is wrong with you whining that we never got to see Dad? At least we had a father who cared, which they never had. Think about that why dontcha?” Ronnie said, angrily screwing the top onto the jam jar, closing the Cheerios box and stacking the breakfast dishes. He grabbed the untouched toast on Georgiana's plate and munched on it as he paused looking at the words Peter had made from Cheerios on his place-mat. He frowned. “He can't know what a bog is, right?”
“What?” Simon said, disinterested.
“I think Peter's dyslexic or something. Look,” Ronnie pointed at the words. “I fixed the backward P in his name before, but look at the other words. The C is messed up and the R in car and the D in dog, too.”
Simon took a closer look and now understood what Ronnie was talking about. Peter made the D backwards, so instead of d-o-g it read b-o-g. “That's a common mistake for a little kid, surely,” he said, but he certainly didn't sound convincing.
Ronnie reached into his back pocket, but his phone wasn't there. “Can I borrow your cell?”
“What for?” Simon asked as he held it out for his brother.
Ronnie took a few photos of the words and texted them to their father. “Dad should know about this, before it's too late.”
“Too late for what?”
“I dunno. How do they fix dyslexia?” Ronnie said, scooping the cereal words into the bowl. “Therapy or something?”
“I couldn't say,” Simon said, staring daggers at his brother. “So...about last night...instead of taking the girls home, you all went to Danfords... without me?”
“No, not instead. Why does everybody keep saying that? I took Sophie home first, just ...not Cassie.”
“So, now that you know I like her, you're all over her?” Simon said, through clenched teeth.
Ronnie sighed. “Dude, get your head outta your ass. If I ever had wanted her it woulda happened in school, but she's too nice for me to mess with. We're just friends. Man, is that what's got you all bitched out today? You're jealous? You make me laugh! All she did all night was ask me stuff about you.”
“What... what kind of stuff?” Simon asked, taken aback.
“I dunno... name, rank, serial number, favorite color,” Ronnie said, trying to hide his amusement. He'd never seen his brother like this and it was a hoot to behold.
“And you, of course, told her what a jackass I am,” Simon accused.
Again Ronnie sighed. “Do that perfectly all on your own, dude. I shoulda, but I didn't. Matter of fact, I was talking you up, trying to get Frankie to at least not entirely dislike you. Don't think he trusts you with his little sister cuz... he thinks you're too smooth.”
“Too smooth?” Simon said, baffled. “Unlike you I suppose?”
“Nah, he thinks I'm regular guy. You know, just like him...nothing to hide cuz...I am who I am. He knows he can trust me cuz I'm real.”
“And I'm fake?” he shouted.
“Yeah...kinda. Hey, I don't know what he's thinking. It's the feeling I get,” Ronnie said, putting butter and jam back in the fridge.
“So, whose idea was it to go to Danfords?” Simon asked, apparently still suspicious.
“Cassie. She told me to take her to her brother's place instead of having me going all the way to her house which is on the other side of Lake Kramer. Her house is twenty minutes further than Danfords, but once we got there Frankie asked us to stay and help him...so...we did. We had to...he was all alone and the place was swamped.”
“And now you have a job there? Doing what exactly?”
Ronnie grinned as he recalled all the girls flirting with him. He should just say that was his new job--flirting-- if only to bug his brother, but he thought better of it. Obviously Simon was already ticked off enough to send their little brothers and sister hiding away. No need to poke an already ornery bear.
“Mostly serving soda and beer,” he said, shrugging.
“You're not legally allowed to drink beer but you can serve it?”
“Apparently, but you'd have to ask Frankie,” Ronnie said. “I'm pretty sure he wasn't gonna turn me away even if I was five years old...he was that desperate.”
“And what did you do to help so much?”
“Like I said, serving drinks and clearing some tables and stuff. It's just til his regular girl comes back.”
Simon frowned as his brother cleaned up and put the dirty dishes away, probably doing as he did at Danfords . “Practicing, are we?”
“Nothing,” Simon muttered. “So, what was Cassandra doing all this time while you were serving drinks?”
“You mean at the bar? Handling the money for Frankie. He hates doing it, he said, and she's good at it so...” Ronnie said. “Oh, just so you know, she's coming over later.”
“What! Cassandra... coming here...today? Are you serious?”
“She kinda invited herself over and I said sure. Didn't think you'd mind.”
“I don't...but her father's okay with this?” Simon asked, incredulous.
“I guess. She asked Frankie and he was like, okay but only if Sophie goes too, so she's gonna be here, too. It's like he's her real father or something. Really weird.”
“I overheard them talking a little and from what I could make out—hard to really know for sure with all the noise and music and stuff--but I think their father's sick or something. Did she say anything to you about it?”
“No, nothing,” Simon said, a crease between his brows. “What time will they be here?”
Ronnie shrugged. “Call 'em and ask.”
“I would if I had her number. You got it?” Simon asked.
“Yup, in my phone,” he said, gathering more glasses, cups and bowls and putting them in the dishwasher.
“And your phone is where?” Simon said, impatiently.
“Uh...maybe I left it in Dad's truck,” Ronnie said, looking at the bowl of uneaten Cheerios. “You think birds eat cereal?”
Ronnie shrugged again, opening the back door and flung the cereal out onto the snow. “Someone will eat it.”
Simon silently shook his head at the absurd things his brother does and went to the truck, looking for the cell phone.
After the kitchen was put to right, Ronnie went looking for the kids. He couldn't find them anywhere downstairs, so he went upstairs. They were all huddled together in Georgiana's room, sitting cross-legged on the floor with tape, scissors, stickers, crayons and colorful paper scattered about them.
“Hey, guys, what you doing?” Ronnie said.
“Go away!” Julian said, jumping up and pushing the door closed—or at least trying to.
“Hey...sorry!” Ronnie said. “Didn't know this was a top-secret meeting.”
“It's okay, Julian,” Georgiana said. “He knows about this. He gave me the idea.”
Julian opened the door and let Ronnie enter. “Sorry.”
Ronnie laughed and sat down on the floor next to them. Sure enough, they were putting together a scrap book of their favorite things about their new dad. He picked up a long list of items meticulously printed—it had to be Georgiana's handwriting-- each numbered. He laughed out loud at:
#13. He's strong enough to carry us without hurting himself.
#14. He doesn't think any of us are too big to pick up.
“This is great,” he said. “Dad's gonna love it.”
“I think instead of each of us making our own books for Daddy we'll just make one big one,” Georgiana said. “But I don't know how Daddy's gonna tell which is our favorite things about him. Ya know what I mean? Like number one is Peter's and number four is mine, and number five is Julian's. They're all mixed up so Daddy won't know which is which.”
Ronnie looked over the list again. “Initials?”
“I thought of that, but I didn't like it,” Georgiana said. “Made it look messy.”
“Okay...” Ronnie said thinking again. “How about you put a key at the beginning of the book. One star for Peter, two stars for Julian and three stars for you? And after each thing you put the number of stars you need.”
“Like stickers? Ooh, that would be so pretty!” Georgiana said. “But we'll need a lot of stickers.”
“And four stars for Ronnie!” Julian said, excitedly.
“And no stars for Simon,” Peter grumbled.
“Sorry he was mean to you today,” Ronnie said. “He's kinda jealous. First borns usually are I think.”
“What's first bores?” Peter asked.
“First borns, he was the first one born. That means he had Mom and Dad to himself and he liked it that way. He got all the attention until I came along,” Ronnie said. “And now he has four new brothers and sisters so...bit hard to take I guess.”
“So, he's always gonna hate us?” Julian asked.
“I don't think he hates you,” Ronnie said, hoping rather than knowing this to be true.
“He does!” Peter said.
“How come you don't hate us, Ronnie?” Julian asked.
“Why would I? You're all cool little dudes. Besides, I like being a big brother, instead of Simon's little brother.”
“But you're bigger than he is,” Peter said. “Maybe that's why he's mean to you too.”
“He's never gonna like us,” Peter said.
“Well, give him some time and for now I like you enough for the both of us, okay?” Ronnie said, putting his arm around Peter's thin shoulders.
This must have been enough invitation for Peter who crawled onto Ronnie's lap and gave him a big hug. “I like you, Ronnie. You're nice just like Daddy.”
“Thanks, Bud,” Ronnie said, grinning. “Um...so, are you kids okay for a while? I wanna jump in the shower.”
“We won't set the house on fire or anything,” Julian said.
“Good to know!” Ronnie said laughing as he stood up and let Peter back onto the floor.
“Ronnie, can we have a music lesson later?” Georgiana asked.
“Um...sure, but our friends will be coming over,” Ronnie said.
“Who?” Peter asked.
“Cassie and Sophie.”
“Oh...your girlfriends you mean!” Julian said with a giggle.
“No, not mine. Simon and Cassie maybe, but... not me and Sophie. Remember Sophie might become our step-sister if Dad marries Violet,” Ronnie said.
“Daddy said it's not gonna happen,” Georgiana said, sadly.
“Never say never,” Ronnie said going to the door. “Hey, it's Christmas time... the time for miracles. You just gotta believe!”
The three little kids watched him go, closing the door over, leaving them alone again.
“I sure hope he's right,” Georgiana said.
©2015 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved