Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chapter 285 All I want for Christmas



“Well, I suppose I ought to let you get to sleep now,” Violet said, tucking the blankets around Georgiana.
“Not yet,” she said. “I'm waiting for Daddy. We always read together for a few minutes first.”
Violet smiled. “His favorite part of the day,” she mumbled, dropping a kiss on Georgiana's forehead.
“How do you know that?” Georgiana asked.
“I know a great many things about Victor,” Violet said, drawing in a deep breath before admitting something she never had previously done. “He's been my best friend almost for this entire year. You get to know a person that way and I know...he's amazing.”
“Really? Then why don't you...” Georgiana stopped herself, pressing her lips together to prevent the words from spilling out. After all, she had promised Victor she wouldn't say anything to make Violet uncomfortable and surely what she had been about to ask would have counted as such. “I wish...”
“What do you wish, Honey?” Violet asked, even though she had a good idea. “It's Christmas time, the best time for making wishes, especially unreasonable ones.”
Georgiana shook her head. “If wishes were horses we'd all live in Texas on a horse ranch.”
Violet stared for a moment, then dissolved in uncontrollable laughter. “Where in the world did you get that from?” she asked, still laughing.
“Daddy said it...or something like it. I think it means we wish for too many things and most of them won't come true so...” she said, smiling. “I like to see you laugh, Violet. Reminds me of when I used to make my mom laugh. It was so nice. I miss that.”
“Oh, Sweetie, you and I are so alike,” she said, fighting back sudden tears.
“We are?” How?”
“Well, several ways. We both have fathers who pretty much abandoned us when we needed them most. We both miss our mothers very much, even after so many years and...”
“Is your mom dead too?”
Violet looked away from those huge hazel eyes, so innocent and sweet. “You might say that. The thing is neither one of them are ever coming back to us as they once were and that's so sad.”
Georgiana nodded. “All I want for Christmas is...is...”

“Is probably the same thing I want, that I've wanted for almost every year since I was ten years old,” Violet said.
“I doubt that. You want a new mom, too?”
Violet nodded. “Well, my old mom actually, but it amounts to the same for us.”
“But that's a crazy wish cuz...it'll never happen. We won't find them wrapped and under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.”
“Perhaps not, but...tell you what... I won't ever get my wish but I can help you get yours. That is...until you get your wish granted, you can come to me, call me anytime and I'll be a kind of substitute. I won't mind. I could pretend you're my little girl, too. I miss being a mom to a little girl. You see, I know for a fact there are some things you can't discuss with a father even one as wonderful as Victor so...”
“Daddy might get mad if I did that,” Georgiana said in a whisper.
“Then we'll keep it just between the two of us,” Violet whispered back.
“Really?”
“Yes, really,” Violet said.
Georgiana sprung to sitting position again and threw her arms around Violet's neck. “It's almost like really getting my wish,” she mumbled into her neck.
“It is, isn't it?” Violet said holding her close, until tears threatened again. “I better go now. Your daddy will be in soon to read to you.”
She stood up went to the door and looking back to the bed she smiled. “Sweet dreams, Georgiana.”
“Good night, Violet,” she said. “Thank you for the braids and everything.”
Violet nodded and stepped out into the hall, promptly running into Victor who had been shamelessly eavesdropping.
“Victor! Oh my goodness...Uh...how...how long have you been there?” Violet asked, all a-flutter.
He stared for a moment. “Long enough,” he said.
“Don't be angry with her, please,” she said in a hushed voice.
“I'm not,” he replied, a slight smile emerging.
“Oh...” she said, a worried frown creasing her forehead. “Then, please don't be angry at me.”
He grinned. “I'm not.”
She stared up at him not sure what to make of this. He had been so cold to her the few times she had seen him and now, he seemed warm as honey. “Well, um...I better be going home. Thank you for dinner. I had a lovely time with the...with everyone.”
“The boys would love it if you stopped in to say good night...if it's not too much trouble for you.”
She shook her head. “Not at all. Thank you...Victor,” she said, but instead of going down the hall to the boys' room she stayed rooted to the spot with a song running through her head.


“Victor?”
“Yes?” he said.
“Do...do you need any help with the Christmas party preparations?” she asked.
“I think Marty has it all under control, but I'll have her call you if she needs anything, okay?”
She nodded, her eyes glued to his face.
“All we want is you,” he said.
“What...what did you say?” she said. Was the song running in her head playing tricks on her?
“Just be here for the party, Violet, that's all we need. Okay?”
She nodded and watched him go into Georgiana's room. She really needed to get a grip!
*****
“Where's Cassie?”
Simon looked up from his cell. “She said she had to get back home,” he said.
“So, she just left?” Sophie said, stunned, miffed and annoyed. “What about me?”
“It's all about you, huh?” he said, looking at his cell again.
“I told her I had a present for her dad...stayed up all night baking! She knows I have no car.”
“Oh, yeah? I can bring you over...right now if you like,” he said suddenly quite helpful, pocketing his cell phone, now giving her his full attention.
“You...you would do that? Why?” she said suspiciously.
“Can't I just want to be a good big brother?”
“Oh, sure, you expect me to believe that?” she said.
“Okay, so I want to meet her family and you can bring over your little gift to facilitate that. Win-win for us both,” he said.
“Not so fast, bud,” she said. “I'll let you take me there on one condition.”
“And what could that be?” he asked, warily.
“You bring me to Danfords afterward. You don't have to stay. Ronnie or Frankie could take me home after closing up.”
Simon stared at her with suspicion. “Why do you wanna go there tonight? Did you not have enough trouble there for one whole week?”
“Recall if you will, I didn't have any trouble. I was NOT the one drugged, remember?”
“Not for lack of trying,” he countered.
She sighed. “Fine, it coulda been bad for me, but you were there to stop it and tonight I have Frankie and...” She stopped to shake her head. “And big brother Ronnie too. I just want to hang there with friends and...maybe I'll get to sing or something.”
“Is it okay with Violet?” Simon asked.
“As soon as she comes down I'll ask.”
“Down? Where is she?”
“Bedtime for kiddos, of course. Her favorite thing in the world,” Sophie said.
“My dad's too. Now do you see why they belong together?” he said.
She rolled her eyes. “Every minute I see another reason, so yeah! I give up. You've convinced me. They belong together and from now on I'm helping you to get them married. All right?”
He stared for moment and finding her seemingly telling the truth he smiled. “Well, it's good to have another sister...even one like you.”
“Feelings mutual...brother,” she said, grumpily dropping onto the sofa.
They waited another twenty minutes for Violet. When Sophie heard her come downstairs she sprung to her feet and went to meet her in the foyer.
“Mom, Simon and me are going to Cassie's to drop off the cookies I baked for Mr. Bellarosa, okay?”
“All right...but then, you didn't really need me to bring you home,” she said.
“Well, the real reason was you were suppose to bring Ronnie his cell, remember?” Sophie said.
“It's in my pocketbook. Didn't you see it there?”
She sighed. “Mom, it's not in the car. You musta left it home. I'll go get it and the cookies and Simon will take me to Cassie's house and then to Danfords to bring Ronnie his phone. Frankie can bring me back home after closing, around two.”
“That's awfully late, Sophie! Can't Simon bring you back home?”
“He could but Frankie said he wanted me to perform tonight,” she said, adding a+ little white lie. “I want to do anything I can to help his business become a big success.”
“That's awfully nice. Okay, Sophie, but be careful! I do NOT want another Antoine thing happening,” Violet said anxiously.
“How could it with Ronnie and Frankie as bodyguards?”
“What about me?” Ronnie said, coming down the stairs looking like something straight out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog.
“Wow, you look nice, Ronnie!” Violet said, grabbing her coat.
“Frankie didn't tell me what to wear so...you think this will be okay?” Ronnie asked.
“Like ya gotta ask,” Sophie muttered irritably, grabbing her own coat.
Within minutes they are all out of the house each heading in the same direction until Ronnie's pickup turned left onto the highway.
“Did you tell Cassie we'd be dropping by?” Sophie asked.
“How could I? I didn't know you wanted to give her father a present,” Simon said, stopping in front of a house with a large nativity scene on the front lawn, many unblinking blue lights framing the house and white blinking lights all over the row of spruce trees on either side of their yard.
“Wow, they really get into the Christmas spirit,” Simon said, parking in front of the house.
“This is nothing,” Sophie said, grabbing the large Christmas themed tin from the back seat of Simon's Jag. “Cassie's dad used to start before Thanksgiving putting up lights... Santa with a full sleigh, elves and reindeer and everything. Guess he's too old now to do much more than this...or he had Frankie do it.”
“How old is he?” Simon asked.
“Well...my guess is about Mr. Kramer's age...maybe older.”
“Seriously???”
“Yeah, Cassie's mom was a... mid-life crisis fling, then his wife –Frankie's mother-- conveniently died and he married Cassie's mom.”
“But Cassandra told me her mother died,” Simon said.
“She did. What can I say? Mr. Bellarosa doesn't have good luck keeping wives.”
Sophie led the way up the walkway. She knocked on the door and when nobody answered she rang the bell too.
Cassandra opened the door a minute later “Sophie! What are you doing...” She gasped when she saw Simon right behind her. “I'm gonna kill you!”
“Hello, Cassandra,” Simon said.
“What are you doing here?” she shrieked.
Sophie lifted the cookie tin. “Merry Christmas to you too. Can we come in?”
“Uh...it's not a good time. I can just take it to my father and tell him they are from you,” Cassandra said reaching for the tin.
“Hell, no! I baked them, so I'm giving them to him!” Sophie said, pushing into the house.
“Was this your idea?” Cassandra hissed at Simon.
“Actually, no. Sophie asked me to bring her here before taking her to Danfords,” he said coming inside. “I won't cause you trouble, Cassandra. I promise.”
If she could only believe that! Before she could give an explanation, Sophie moved away from her and straight into the living room, lit only with the lights from the Christmas tree. She looked around the dark room and found several people talking softly around someone vaguely familiar. He was reclining on an overstuffed lounge chair with a thick blanket covering him up to his chin and an oxygen tank beside him.
“Sophia? This that you, cara mia?”
Sophie stopped in her tracks, shocked to her toes. “Mr. Bellarosa?” she whispered.
It couldn't be! This was NOT the man she remembered from two years ago. He had been the size of a mountain, robust and hardy. He used to remind her of one of those oversized opera singers. He even sang like Lucino Paverotti when he was found cooking up a storm in the kitchen. And now? He was a mere shell of that man, skin and bones, barely recognizable, pasty skinned, weak and feeble. What in the world had happened to him???
“Papa, I told Sophie you were too busy with family, but she insisted,” Cassandra said, glaring at her friend. “She has a present for you.”
“Oh, I'm never too busy to see Bella mia,” he said, lifting his frail arm to beckon Sophie forward.
Sophie was too afraid to approach him, until Simon put an arm around her and led her forward. “Sophie, let's not be rude. Please introduce us,” he said smoothly.
“Mr. Bellarosa, this is...uh...” she said, going blank as she stared down at the weak old man.
“It's very nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Bellarosa. My name is Simon Romanoff. My father is engaged to Violet, Sophie's mother. So you can say, we are nearly brother and sister,” he said.
“Ah... Simon, did you say? Ah...this is good. Violet is a wonderful woman... would have married her myself if she had been younger,” Mr. Bellarosa said.
Simon stared until several people around them chuckled and he realized that had been a joke. “Well, my father would have put up a big fight for her,” he said, grinning.
Mr. Bellarosa weakly laughed and then went into a hacking cough, which knocked the wind out of him. Cassandra rushed to his side and placed an oxygen masked over his nose and mouth.
“Stop fussing, Cassandra!” he snapped.
“Let her do her job, Frances,” said a man with a bulging belly, sagging cheeks and many bags under his eyes. “Do you remember me, Sophie? It's been a long time.”
Sophie, who was struck dumb needed a nudge from Simon before she could focus her eyes on the other man. “Cassandra's uncle, right? Um...”
“I'm Paulie, and this is my wife Gina and son Cristobal,” he said, his arm around a young man in his late teens or early twenties. “Over there is Guido and his wife is Rosa. Their son is in the kitchen, but he should be back in a minute.”
“Yes, yes, I do remember,” she said. “Merry Christmas...uh, Uncle Guido, Aunt Rosa, Uncle Paulie, Aunt Gina and...uh, Chris...I think you like being called Chris, right?”
He smiled and nodded, but said not a word.
“Enough of that. Where is my present?” Mr. Bellarosa demanded.
Sophie held it out, but Rosa stepped forward and snatched the tin out of her arms and went to place it under the Christmas tree among the dozens of brightly colored boxes.
“You can't open it now,” she said.
“But Aunt Rosa....” Cassandra said.
“It's not Christmas yet,” Aunt Gina said.
“I could be dead by then,” Mr. Bellarosa said. “Give it to me now!”
Cassandra, mortified and beyond angry, took the tin to her father opening it and tilting it so he could see inside. “Look, Papa, your favorites,” she said, frustrated tears filling her eyes. “Want one?”
“He shouldn't eat that,” Aunt Rosa said. “It's not...”
Paulie grabbed his sister-in-law's arm, silently telling her to shut up.
“It's just a cookie, Rosa,” Guido said.
“Bella mia, you do love me,” Mr. Bellarosa said, after taking a bite from a cookie. “Melts in your mouth...just like ...just like home. Thank you so much, Sophia.”
“I'm...I'm so glad you like them,” Sophie said, her watery eyes lifting to meet Cassandra's. “I haven't been a very good friend...to you or Cassandra, and...I'm hoping to change that.”
“That is good, Sophia,” Mr. Bellarosa said, taking her hand. “My little girl needs a friend like you, especially as I am short for this world.”
“Mr. Bellarosa, why...what...” Sophie began, but the words failed her.
“We're all here for Cassandra, Mr. Bellarosa,” Simon said. “My brother Ron has been a good friend to Cassandra. They were in school together, in many of the same classes I understand. I hope to be as good a friend as well.”
Mr Bellarosa stared at him for a moment. “I want to be alone with my new friends. Guido, Paulie, take everyone away... leave us,” he said.
“Papa?” Cassandra said, warily looking from Sophie to Simon.
“Leave us, Cara mia,” her father said. “I'll call you when I want you.”
Cassandra gave Simon a horrified look then turned and left.
“Come, sit by me. Sophia, you here and, Simon, right there,” Mr. Bellarosa said indicating they sit side by side on the sofa facing him. “Now...how long have you been in love with my daughter?”




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