After suffering through several atrocious songs, Violet shut off the car radio in disgust, but only a few minutes into the long ride back to Catalpa Valley the oppressive quiet got to her and she started humming the first tune to pop into her head.
♪ ♫…On a morning from a Bogart movie, in a country where they turn back time …♩ ♬
Violet paused, wondering, “Isn't the United States the only country turning the clocks back for daylight saving time? Or do they mean a country stuck in the seventh century like Iraq, Iran and Syria? Ooh, I bet that's what they meant! Where is Casa Blanca anyway? Same place where they rock the Kasbah, perhaps? Or...Monaco, Morocco or something like...I think. I should look that up.”
She proceeded with the song: ♪ ♫…you go strolling through the crowd like Victor...no...um, Peter Lorre contemplating a crime …♩ ♬
She deliberately forced her mind away from the one young and adorable little boy named Peter who she knew very well—and also his slip-of-the-tongue father-- to the one she didn't know at all. “Peter Lorre...” she mumbled. “Was he in Casa Blanca or maybe in The Maltese Falcon? He could walk right up to me and I wouldn't know him from Adam. I should look him up too.”
Again she continued with the curious song: ♪ ♫…she comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a water color in the rain …♩ ♬
Once more Violet stopped and made a funny face. “What the heck does that mean? Comes out of the sun...water color in the rain?” she muttered.
She sighed and tried to shake the vividly worded song out of her head, but the tune was stubbornly stuck in there. “Why in the world did this ancient song pop into my head in the first place and why won't it leave?”
“Keep singing, stop analyzing and it'll come to you,” Richard instructed.
She sang it again—not like she had much choice-- and she was nearly at the end when it happened.
♪ ♫… But the moonlight strains of the night remain...la-la-la, something something, you know in time you're bound to leave her, but for now you're gonna stay...in the year of the cat…♩ ♬
Violet suddenly gasped. “Calendula!”
“And she finally got the message,” Richard said, smirking. “Knew you would, eventually. Ginger fluffy is royally pissed, you should know. Two days without a clean litter box will do it.”
“Omigosh, she's gonna kill me!” Violet moaned, not even slowing down as she approached the Catalpa Valley exit.
She abruptly stopped at the end of the ramp biting down on her bottom lip. She was supposed to go to Victor's house to return Ronnie's cell phone, but she couldn't ignore Calendula one more minute. She knew the horrors awaiting her if she did! No, she had to go home, if only for a few minutes. She looked left, but she turned right and headed up her own hill.
Violet parked in the driveway leaving the keys in the ignition. On automatic she grabbed her purse and ran to the door. She found the front door was locked--of course it would be since Sophie wasn't home either-- and the keys...yes, they were still in the car. She dropped her purse on the small, painted-white, wrought iron table she had on the porch where she usually propped her groceries while playing with the tricky lock, and she went back to the car to get the house keys.
At last home with the door unlocked, she turned on the lights and pulled her scarf and hat off just as Calendula slowly walked into the foyer and sat down flipping her long bushy ginger tail around her toes before giving Violet a contemptuous look.
“Hey, Baby, how are you, hunny?” Violet said, pulling her coat off and draping it on the end finial of the banister. Violet went to pet her, but the expression on the cat was a bit off-putting so she thought better of it.
“I'm sorry! I'm sorry!” Violet said. “I know I haven't been around much, but it's Christmas time and you know how busy it is during Christmas at Weston.”
It was amazing how much Calendula did NOT care for this excuse.
“Okay, okay, I'll feed you first then I'll clean the...”
Calendula's eyes narrowed.
“Fine, litter box first, then I feed you, okay?” Violet said—or more like pleaded.
Calendula stood up, turned her raised tail on her human slave—for surely you realize that is precisely what Violet is to her-- and she slinked into the kitchen to await dinner.
Violet went into the laundry room and nearly gagged--the stench was unbearable-- but she did what must be done with the merest of muttering until she had a fresh, clean litter box set up. As soon as she entered the kitchen the cat left, making Violet grumble again when she heard the unmistakable sounds of litter being shoved and scratched from one side to another.
Violet had barely time to empty the cat food into the bowl when Calendula streaked out of the laundry room as if her tail was on fire. It only took a minute for the reason for this to reach Violet's nostrils.
“Oh, pee-eew stinko, Calandula! You couldn't have done that before I cleaned the litter box? No, of course not,” Violet grumbled. “You were saving it specially for me, weren't you? Remind me again why I keep you around?”
“Because you love her... for catching all the moles, voles and field mice out of your garden,” Richard said. “Scares away the bunnies too, remember?”
“Hmm...but she's nearly useless all winter!” Violet huffed.
“You know that's not true,” Richard said. “She's your crochet buddy, keeping you company on those long, cold nights. You love her and would be lost without her.”
“Oh, you shut up,” Violet grumbled because she knew this was completely true.
She put the food down on the floor mat and went back to the laundry room armed this time with a can of air freshener.
Several minutes later with coat and hat back on, Violet pulled on her gloves, grabbed her keys and left the house, a sense of dread coming over her.
The three children sat down on the plush sofa in Victor's study-- Peter with his slipper clad feet dangling off the edge of the seat, Georgiana sitting on the edge of hers with her feet firmly planted on the floor, her expression curiously earnest, and Julian sandwiched in between cross-legged, looked worried.
“Are we in trouble?” Julian asked, watching Victor take a seat in front of them on the leather ottoman.
“No, not at all,” Victor said, forcing a smile he didn't quite feel. He sat staring from one child to the other wondering why he had no trouble facing hostile district attorneys, indifferent juries and biased judges, but these three little kids had him tongue-tied. He focused on Peter's big toe which stuck out of the hole in his sock.
He tickled the toe until Peter giggled and said, “Might be time for a new pair, huh?”
“Yup, Viowet will give us new slippers for Christmas,” Peter said, confidently.
“And scarfs, and hats and mittens, too,” Julian added. “She does every year.”
“Um...she might not this year,” Georgiana said.
“Why not?” Julian asked.
“She gives those to the kids at Littlest Angels cuz they're orphans and... we're not there anymore cuz we're not orphans, remember? We have a new dad now,” Georgiana said, smiling at Victor.
Victor couldn't have asked for a more perfect opening.
“Yes, about that,” he said. “Even though you have been living here with me as a family all this time and you call me dad, the adoption isn't truly finalized yet which...”
“What's fine-eyes mean?” Julian asked.
“Finalized means finished,” Georgiana answered, eagerly watching Victor.
“Yes, thank you, Georgiana,” Victor said. “That means there are still a few details which need to be settled until...”
“Dog tails? But we don't got a dog,” Peter said.
“What?” Victor said.
“Not dog tails, details,” Georgiana said.
Victor laughed wondering what he would do without Georgiana to translate for him. “No, Peter. Details are...”
“Things that have to be fixed before it's done,” Georgiana said, slightly impatient. “What details are you talking about, Daddy?”
“We don't gotta wait for you to marry Viowet, right?” Peter asked. “Cuz that was a detail until you said we gotta forget about it, cuz Viowet doesn't wanna marry you.”
“Yes...I mean no, Violet has nothing to do with this,” Victor cleared his throat and continued. “You probably don't know this, but Reverend Trent has been looking for any remaining relatives of yours that...”
“We don't got none,” Julian interjected.
“That...that's not exactly true,” Georgiana said nervously. “Why does Reverend Trent have to do that? Mrs. Trent told us they stopped looking long time ago for...for anybody.”
“That was before I put in the paperwork to adopt you,” Victor said. “You see, when we know there is a relation somewhere – or we think there may be one-- we need to find them so we can get his or her consent for the adoption to go through.”
Peter and Julian looked to their sister for a translation and she supplied it readily enough although in the tiniest of voices, “It means they need to get permission.”
“Yes, sort of,” Victor said. “They need to...to sign a paper stating that... that...”
Victor stared at the kids with the words stuck in his throat. This was harder than he thought. How could he tell these kids their real father needed to sign away his rights as a parent? That he, in essence, was giving them up permanently, that he didn't care about them enough to ever want them in his life. They already thought he didn't care to keep them safe from the world at large, but to give them up? Wouldn't that make them feel horrible?
“Daddy...” Georgiana whispered, ”What...what's gonna happen?”
“Yes, I'm getting to that,” he said, taking a deep fortifying breath. “Okay, the thing is we found...your father and...and he wants to see you.”
The three kids were speechless for a moment, then they all spoke at once.
“I never sawed him before,” Peter said, rather indifferently.
“I don't 'member him...not no more,” Julian said, in a worried tone.
“He's not our father anymore!” Georgiana shouted, surprising them all. “We're orphans.”
“Technically, you're not and he is, Georgiana,” Victor said, gently. “He still has legal right to you and your brothers. He left before he waived his parental rights.”
“He's gotta wave to us?” Peter said, making a weird face and lifting his hand in a wave.
“No, not that kind of wave,” Victor said, watching Georgiana's trembling lips. “Georgie, what is it? What are you thinking?”
“Is he gonna take us away?” Georgiana asked.
“You're not gonna 'dopt us?” Julian said, his eyes wide with fear.
“But...but you promised!” Peter shouted.
In a blink of an eye, all the children were crying and it didn't look like they were going to stop any time soon.
“Oh, boy,” Victor said, dropping his head in his hands.
©2015 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved
* Year of the Cat by Al Stewart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM7LR46zrQU