“I mean it, Mr. Romanoff,” Sophie said.
He smiled mirthlessly. “You'll have to forgive me, Sophie, if I don't exactly believe you.”
“I guess you shouldn't cuz of what I said, but...” Sophie said. “I was wrong to get between you and her.”
“Were you indeed?” he said carelessly. “Didn't think it mattered to you. You made yourself perfectly clear you thought very little of the friendship between your mother and me. Worse, you expressed that any relationship between us was an abomination, that Violet should never think of remarrying anybody, lest she forget your father.”
Sophie winced. “I know, and I'm sorry I said all that, but I know things now I didn't then.”
“Oh? Like what?”
She hesitated a moment, biting down on her lip again. She decided she couldn't tell him about her ghost father. That would just sound insane. No way he would believe it.
“Mom's not happy. She misses you,” she said instead.
“She told you that?” he said, eyes narrowed.
“No...not exactly, but...” Sophie said.
“Then it doesn't matter, does it?” he said, turning is back on her.
“You told me you loved her.”
“Yes, I did. So?”
“I didn't think...I didn't want to think she loved you back...but I know now she does.”
“Did she expressly say so?” Victor asked, now getting angry.
Sophie sighed and shook her head as she picked up the shot glass and sniffed at the drop of tequila at the bottom. She wrinkled her nose and set it back down before lifting her eyes to him. “My mom's got this thing. She can kinda say things without meaning to. You've known her long enough that you must've picked up on it. Like...she's a horrible liar, especially when you ask her a direct question that she doesn't wanna answer and I did ask her if she loved you and she....”
“I know you have to read between the lines with Violet,” he said.
“Yeah, that's what I mean!”
“You can always tell when she's lying, because she does it so rarely and therefor has no practice at deceit.”
“Exactly!” Sophie said. “You know exactly what I mean.”
“Yes, I do, but that still does not mean anything...not to me,” he said, turning away from the liquor cabinet and making to leave the room.
Sophie grabbed his arm. “Please, Mr. Romanoff, you have to listen to me.”
“No, I truly don't, because you have nothing I need to hear,” he said, brushing her hand away.
“I was stupid to think that if she fell in love again that she would forget my dad. I know she won't or can't—not really-- but she can still love you. I think we can help her realize that she can be in love with you without forgetting about my dad. I...I wanna help you two get back together cuz it's the way it should be.”
“Right...” Victor said, skeptically. “May I ask what has brought on this supposed change of heart?”
“I...Okay, I'll tell you. I...I had a dream last night...about my dad and...and he told me...he said...he said you should be together, cuz my mom...she shouldn't be alone...like ever. It's just not good for her. It's no life, you know?”
Victor took a deep breath, the tequila finally working its way to his nerve endings leaving him slightly numb. He smiled again. “I agree with you there, Sophie. No one should be alone... not people like Violet anyway. But you know what? She has to decide that for herself. Not you, not me, not a dream, not even the Pope can decide for her. So, do me a favor and just let sleeping dogs lie. All right?” he said, once again turning to leave. “Now, I think its time for dinner...if you'll join us.”
“Mr. Romanoff?” Sophie said following him out.
“Yes, what now?” he said, lazily.
“I wish you would forgive me,” Sophie said.
Victor thought about that a moment remembering something he heard in an old movie which he had seen with Violet. “If wishes were horses, we'd all be ranchers, I suppose,” he said.
She looked at him as if he'd sprouted horns.
“Fine, you're forgiven,” he muttered. “Just as long as we never have to discuss this again. Got me?”
She nodded grimly, feeling she had failed miserably in her quest. It would have to do, however....for now.
Upon entering the kitchen, the first thing Georgiana saw was Violet. Violet turned when she heard her come in and smiled.
“Hello, Georgiana,” Violet said. “How are you, Sweetie?”
Instead of answering, Georgiana stepped quickly to her throwing her arms around Violet's middle and burying her face in her chest, nearly knocking her over.
Violet laughed. “You've forgotten you only just saw me yesterday, too, huh? It's epidemic!”
Georgiana shook her head and squeezed tighter. A tiny sniff was the first clue something was amiss.
“Georgie, are you okay?” Violet said.
She shook her head.
“What's wrong? Honey, tell me.”
Still, Georgiana said nothing, but she released Violet and went to sit down at the kitchen table, staring down at the floor.
“Omigosh,” Cassandra muttered. “Are you mad at me cuz I finished dinner without you? I'm sorry, Georgiana, but you and your dad were talking for so long that Ronnie was ready to eat a grizzly bear if I didn't....”
“I don't care about dinner,” Georgiana listlessly said.
“Then maybe you could set the table, cuz the rest of us do care,” Simon said.
“Do it yourself,” she said, harshly.
Ronnie and his brother exchanged startled looks.
“What were you and Dad talking about?” Simon asked.
Georgiana looked up at him and for a brief moment she hated everything about him. “None of your business,” she snapped.
“Where are Victor and the boys?” Violet asked gently.
“Out in the hall with Sophie,” Georgiana said. “They'll be in soon.”
“Good idea, Georgie. Simon can set the table,” Ronnie said, giving his brother a significant look.
Cassandra nudged Simon. “Go on, I'll start serving dinner.”
When Simon had reluctantly gathered silverware and went into the dining room, Violet followed with salad bowls.
Ronnie knelt in front of Georgiana and whispered, “Hey, what's wrong? Can I help?”
Georgiana shook her head.
“Come on, you can tell me,” Ronnie said.
“No, I can't, Ronnie,” she said.
“Sure you can. You keep my secrets and I keep yours. That's how it works with family,” he said. “I won't tell anybody.”
“I can't...not now,” she said.
“Oh...okay,” he said. “You don't have to, but whatever it is, Dad will fix it. He always does.” Ronnie hugged her and dropped a kiss on her forehead.
“Is this enough spaghetti for your brothers, Georgiana?” Cassandra asked, showing her the two plates she had dished out for them.
She shook her head. “Way too much.”
“Oh, okay,” she said, looking at Ronnie for advice.
“Let Violet do it. She knows,” Ronnie said, just as the two boys ran in.
“Where's Viowet?” Peter said.
“Here I am,” she said, coming back into the kitchen, and again she was nearly tackled by the eager boys.
“It's good you're here,” Julian said.
“You gonna haf dinner wiff us?” Peter asked.
“Yes, if that's okay,” she said. “Is your dad coming? Everything is ready.”
“Yup,” Julian replied, taking her hand. “I wanna sit next to you.”
“Nu-uh, I wanna!” Peter said.
“There are two sides to Violet,” Cassandra reminded them. “But first she has to help me with the food. Go sit down and she'll be right in.”
“I'll save a place for you, Violet,” Julian said.
“Nu-uh, I will!” Peter said, running after him.
“Boys are so weird,” Georgiana muttered as Ronnie pulled her up and dragged her into the dining room.
“Come on, Cutie. I'm starving!” he said.
Everyone was sitting at the table with food and drink in front of them when Victor and Sophie finally showed up.
“Hope we didn't keep you all waiting too long,” Victor said, taking his place at the head of the table and forcing a smile. “Hello, Violet. So nice to see you... again.”
“Thank you... for having me,” she said, feeling awfully awkward.
This feeling passed quickly, however, as the chatter around the table started and food was consumed. Peter and Julian kept Violet entertained--doing more storytelling than eating, each vying for her attention and squabbling all the while--but she couldn't help her eyes flicking over to where Victor sat with Georgiana on one side and Sophie on the other. She couldn't believe Sophie was vying for his attention nearly as much as the little boys were doing with her. Especially when Victor was clearly concerned with Georgiana who wasn't eating.
“Come on, Sweetie. Try to eat something,” he said.
“I'm not hungry,” Georgiana said, putting down the barely nibbled garlic bread.
“It's really yummy stuff,” Ronnie said. “Gramma really taught you well, Georgie.”
“I didn't make it. Cassandra did,” Georgiana said.
“But you showed her how to do it,” Sophie said. “That counts too.”
Georgiana merely shrugged.
“See? I told you she's ticked off cuz I made dinner without her,” Cassandra whispered to Simon.
“No, it's not that. It's whatever my dad told them,” he whispered back. “Hey, Dad, what were you and the kids doing while we were making dinner?”
“What's this we stuff?” Cassandra said, indignant. “Pretty sure you just sat there and watched me do it all.”
“Like usual,” Georgiana muttered.
Violet couldn't help but laugh. "Simon sometimes helps in the kitchen," she said.
“Dad?” Simon said, ignoring the others.
“Nothing to concern you, Simon,” Victor said.
It was just a nicer way of saying none of your business, but still, it ticked off Simon.
“Georgiana seems upset, so...” he persisted.
“Drop it, Simon,” Victor said, giving him a stern look.
“May I be excused ...please, Daddy?” Georgiana said, now fighting back tears.
Victor sighed. “Yes, of course,” he said, but before he let her get out of reach he pulled her onto his lap and whispered to her, “Please don't worry so much about this. I won't let anything happen to you. You know that, right?”
She half nodded, half shrugged.
“If this is upsetting you so much, you don't have to see him at all,” he said.
“Really?” she said, her eyes wide with fear.
"You won't be mad?" she whispered.
"No. Now don't think about it anymore. Go take a nice warm bath and I'll be up in a few minutes so you can read me that story we started last week, okay? I love my little girl.”
She hugged him tightly around the neck, kissed his cheek, then slipped off his lap and went upstairs.
Violet watched Georgiana leave the table with growing concern. Violet wondered what could possibly be so upsetting to her. The little girl barely ate, looked terribly glum and didn't say more than two words throughout the meal.
Just when she was about to ask Victor if there was anything she could do to help, the boys told her all she needed to know.
“...Den we gotta talk about it. Georgie doesn't wanna, but I wanna see him, cuz I never sawed him before,” Peter said.
“I'm sorry...who are you talking about?” Violet asked.
“Our first dad,” Julian said. “I don't 'member him much, but Daddy says we should see him one last time 'fore he 'dopts us.”
“Oh...I see,” Violet said, thoroughly shocked, not to mention dismayed. No wonder Victor looked so haggard and agitated! The idea of his kids meeting that despicable man—for she knew that was exactly what their sorry excuse for a father was from what Georgiana and Flora Trent had already told her-- it must be torturing him.
“Georgie's scared cuz he was mean to us, but Daddy says he won't let him hit us again,” Julian added.
“Of course he won't!” she said.
“Julian, Peter,”Victor said.”If you boys are done eating and chewing off Violet's ears...”
“We never chewed on her ears!” Julian said.
Sophie laughed. “He means talking to her too much,” she said. “But I'm sure my mom didn't mind.”
“No, of course I didn't,” Violet said.
“Oh...” Julian said making a funny face.
“Why don't you go up to your room and get ready for baths?” Victor said.
Peter took another bite of the last meatball and Julian scooped up a few remaining strands of spaghetti before they simultaneously asked, “Can Viowet...”
“No,” Victor said, firmly. “Leave the poor woman alone.”
“Can we say good night?” Julian said.
“Yes, of course,” he said. Then he grimaced when Peter left a tomato sauce kiss on Violet's cheek and he could make out a tiny bit of pasta in her hair from Julian's over enthusiastic embrace, but as he was about to apologize to her for this, a hand on his arm caught his attention.
It was Sophie and oddly enough she was smiling at him. “I know now why Mom fell in love with you.”
“Pardon?” he said.
“You're a great father...just like my dad. I just saw it for myself just now,” she said, her huge blue eyes shimmering. “You're a lot more like my dad then I thought. I really miss my dad.”
“Yes, I know,” he replied, at a loss for anything else to say.
“I figure...since I can't have my dad anymore, I could...it would be nice to have a step-dad... like you,” she said.
Victor stared at her and for all the world he could not make heads or tail of this girl.
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