“I give up,” Violet said to herself.
Yes, it was high time she give up trying to catch Victor alone at this over-crowded Christmas party. Perhaps after the place started thinning out she’d get a chance, or so was her thought. Either way, she was leaving it be for now. But don’t you know, that just when you give up on something and leave it in God’s hands, that’s when things generally start to happen.
She didn’t actually figure into this strategy, at least not consciously. It just sort of happens when you least expect it.
There she was chatting with Flora Trent who had finished some eggnog and was about to set the empty glass down on a side table when Violet took it from her and meant to take it to the kitchen. Of course, it didn’t make sense to go all the way to the kitchen with only one glass in hand, so she grabbed a tray and filled it with a few dirty dishes, a couple more glasses, several cellophane topped cocktail toothpicks and various plastic forks and spoons. Just when there was room on the tray for nothing else and she turned toward the kitchen, Victor stepped in front of her taking the tray out of her hands.
“Violet, please don’t do that,” he said somewhat sternly.
“But I don’t mind,” she said, kicking herself for sounding so childishly breathless.
“Now how am I to believe that when you expressly told me otherwise a long time ago?” he said. He smiled at the bewildered look on her face. “You don’t remember.”
She nodded, then shook her head, which made him laugh.
“You told me once that you always make the mistake of being the last one at a party and you invariably ask the host or hostess if you can help with the clean up and of course, they never say no to such a generous offer. So there you are stuck cleaning up when you’d rather be home snuggled in bed with a good book, a cup of herbal tea and your cat. Now do you remember?”
She blinked up at him marveling on how handsome he looked when he was teasing her and how much she liked it. “Now I do, it was after Freddy’s birthday party, but it’s not the end of this party yet and…”
He shook his head. “Go on and enjoy yourself, Violet, and don’t worry. I won’t ask you to help clean up. Soon you’ll be all snuggled up with Ginger Fluff, a cuppa chamomile and Wuthering Heights,” he said and he turned away.
“Victor,” she said quickly before he got too far.
“Merry Christmas, Violet,” he said and was gone.
Violet made a grumpy face and again silently vowed to give up entirely. To be summarily dismissed like that was too much to bear. He simply didn’t want to talk to her at all anymore! That was patently obvious.
Feeling dejected, she avoided contact with any merry party goers and followed her ear to the music playing in the other room, classic Christmas carols now. Nearly all the older kids were standing around Ronnie’s piano singing along. It was such an inviting sight.
To Violet’s surprise, Sophie was the only one not singing. She was standing apart from everyone staring daggers at Jolene who sat close beside Ronnie on the bench, loudly singing in her beautiful, clear voice.
Violet sighed. Her daughter was having romantic troubles of her own, it seemed, and there was nothing she could do to help her. She had just been about to head toward Sophie to commiserate when a tall teenage boy stepped in front of her.
“Merry Christmas, Violet! Bet you don’t remember me, do you?” he said grinning down at her.
“Uh…sure I do…uh…” she said. “Malcolm?”
He laughed and shook his head pointing his thumb behind him. “He’s Malcolm, I’m Tyrone and that’s our cousin Terrence over there chatting up the little Mexican girl…he never quits. Now, little lady, you come sit right here by us and let’s hear ya praise the birth of our savior.”
From that point, Violet was not allowed to leave. She was placed on a tall stool between Marcus’ two sons and started singing along with them.
Sophie watched Violet in astonishment. She knew her mother loved singing—she’d always heard her doing it while cooking, gardening, baking or sweeping the floor—but geeze, why was she getting along so well with people half her age and weren’t these Jocelyn’s new step kids who she only got to know when she married a month ago? So, when did her mother get the chance to meet them before today? None of this made sense.
“What’s up with you, Kid?”
Sophie jumped and turned to glare at Simon. “Dammit, Simon! Why do ya gotta sneak up on people? You’re so annoying!” she grumbled.
“Sorry, but you would have noticed me coming had you not been so focused on… other things,” he said, sipping from his tumbler.
“She sings very well,” Sophie admitted, trying her best to hide the jealousy.
“Yes, but no better than you…just different,” he said.
She turned to stare at him, stunned. “You drunk or something?”
“Why do you say that?” he asked.
“Because that sounded suspiciously like a compliment and sober Simon would never knowingly compliment anyone, least of all me…unless there was something in it for him,” she replied.
He laughed. “I suppose that may be true, but I’m in the Christmas spirit tonight,” he said, again sipping the amber liquid from his glass.
“Dontcha mean the Christmas spirits are in you?” she said, eying the glass. “You might wanna slow down before you jump up on a table and make a fool of yourself.”
He laughed again. “Not likley. Better to be happy on this which, with enough will power, can be controlled than bitter on that which cannot be controlled,” he said turning his gaze to the singers around the piano. “He’s not interested in her you know … romantically I mean.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, trying for casual and failing miserably.
“Ronnie and Jolene,” he said. “We’ve known them for so long we’re like family, practically cousins.”
“Sure you are,” she muttered, disbelieving.
“I wish you’d give up on him, Sophie,” Simon said, now quite serious. “He’ll only break your heart…if you let him. I’d hate to see that happen to you. So don’t let him.”
She turned to stare at him again. “To hear you talk, someone might think you care.”
“I do care about you…shocking as that may be for you to believe,” he said.
“It is surprising, but assuming I believe it…why would you care?” she said.
He swirled the glass, making the ice clink. “Does it matter?”
She shrugged and looked away. “Guess not, but you don’t have much to worry about anyway. Ronnie doesn’t want anything to do with me,” she said, a bitter note to her voice. "Not romantically anyway."
“That right?” he said, not believing it for a minute.
“You say he’ll break my heart, but did it ever occur to you he might be the one with the broken heart?”
Simon gave a snort. “No way. He’s simply not capable of that.”
“Shows how much you know your brother. I know for a fact he does,” she said. “Bet you didn’t know he was in love with a girl and she broke up with him a long time ago and he’s not over it…will never get over it, not now that she killed herself and he blames himself for it…for not preventing it anyway.”
“What?” he said, stunned. “What are you saying?”
“Let me ask you something,” she interrupted quickly. “Say somebody’s sexually abused as a child, why is it that instead of avoiding sex and practically becoming a nun, instead they go out and become sexually promiscuous to the point of being ridiculous… like a total slut.”
He gaped at her for a moment then cleared his throat. “Well, to not get too technical, it’s a way of gaining the feeling of control of something that was at one point completely out of their control,” he said. “Who are we talking about here?”
“Just some girl… you don’t have to know,” Sophie said. “Point is, Simon, you don’t have to worry about me and Ronnie, cuz he won’t go there and neither will I,” she said.
“Because of this girl?”
“That and…like you said, eventually my mom will get over my dad and she’ll finally realize she’s in love with your father. Don’t know how long that’ll take but…whatever,” she said. “We’ll be family then.”
Simon nodded and turned to look at his brother. Had he made up that story for Sophie’s sake? He’d have to make a point of congratulating his brother on a cleverness of which Simon never suspected him capable.
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