Violet was having so much fun singing with the kids, and she would have stayed longer had Sally—all breathless and excited-- not come to get her.
“Violet, Violet!” Sally shouted. “You gotta come and see!”
“What is it, Sally? Has Santa Claus come early?” Violet asked, while being dragged into the living room. There she saw nearly everyone staring in complete silence at the archway leading into the foyer. Naturally, her eyes followed their path and she gasped.
“Told ya we shoulda called first, Dad,” Rance said, looking around sheepishly.
“Perhaps you were right, Rance” Laurence Van Gholston replied, also a bit unnerved by all the stares. Although he was much more used to it than his son, it was still unpleasant to be gawked at as if you were a sideshow freak.
“Oh, my goodness, Laurence! Rance!” Violet said pushing through the crowd to get to them. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? It’s so nice to see you both!” She hugged one and then the other. “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Violet,” Rance said, searching over her head for one particular pair of blue eyes.
“It was a last minute thought to come and say hello before heading home. Hope we’re not intruding,” Laurence said, looking at all the stunned people around them, some pointing their cell phones at them, others staring in slack-jawed disbelief and yet others excitedly whispering as if they suddenly discovered Bigfoot, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy all rolled up into one.
“Of course not!” Violet said. “Everyone’s welcome at a Christmas party. Let me introduce you around.”
At that point it was a mad rush forward to meet these celebrities and Violet had her hands full beating them back and keeping things somewhat orderly. It was immensely embarrassing to have Laurie gush so badly that she was barely coherent and conversely unflappable Flora was suffering an unusual loss of words, so all she was capable of was nodding like a bobble-head doll. It was quite a relief when Marty and Morris sensibly welcomed Laurence as an old friend and even though Victor was astonished to see them at his house he was gracious in his welcome.
“Laurence, what in the world are you doing in the sticks?” Catherine asked, her eyes shifting from his extremely handsome face to that of his son’s. “Is this little Laurence? Goodness, they grow up fast, don’t they?”
“Merry Christmas, Catherine. So nice to see you and there’s no stopping them once they start,” he said, lightly kissing her cheek. “Didn’t expect to see you here. This is your ex-husband’s house, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but we’re still friendly,” she said, casting a furtive glance at Violet. “How did you two meet exactly?”
“Through our kids, of course. Rance and Sophie met in Miami, started a band there and have been nearly inseparable since,” Laurence said. “As a matter of fact, Violet was instrumental in breaching the gap between me and Rance left by the passing of our dear Emily.”
“She was?” Catherine said in unflattering astonishment.
“Violet possesses a magic of which few women can boast,” Laurence said in a stage whisper. He glanced at Violet and grinned to find her flushed.
“Really…that’s…well, Merry Christmas, Laurence and not-so-little Rance,” Catherine said, shaking her head in wonder.
“Is Sophie here, Violet?” Rance asked anxiously.
“Yes, she is, and as always is the case with her, just follow the music and you’ll find her,” Violet told him, pointing past the dining room. “Won’t she be surprised to see you!”
Simon pulled out of his pocket a small, red envelope and handed it to Sophie. “Merry Christmas, Sophie,” he said.
“You got me a present?” she said, stunned. “Will wonders ever cease?”
“Just open it already and quit with the snark,” he said.
She laughed. “It’s cheating to open presents today, you know. It’s not technically Christmas yet,” she said while eagerly ripping the seal. She pulled out a gift card to Friedman’s. Though bewildered as to what Friedman’s was, she thanked him.
“It’s not much. It’s my favorite place to eat when in the city. It’s close to Columbia so it’s always full of students and the food is great, not junk food. Thought you could use it since you won’t know the best places to eat,” he said, casually.
She stared at him. “That…that’s really thoughtful. Thank you so much, Simon.” She then kissed his cheek and after a moment’s hesitation she threw her arms about him and hugged him tightly. “Sometimes you can be really nice.”
“Don’t sound so shocked,” he teased, hugging her back.
“Can I get some of that?”
Sophie pulled away from Simon and shrieked. “Omigod, omigod!”
“Merry Christmas, Beautiful,” Rance said. “Remember me? Recognize me?”
She stared in stunned disbelief. He was right about hardly recognizing him. This wasn’t the same person she knew so well. This wasn’t her best friend in torn, worn jeans, her bandmate with the long hair and tattoos all over his arms, her confidante with the shy smile until he gave you his trust forever…or was it? The clothes were different, the hair was different, even the way he smiled at her was different, but it was him. It was Bug.
“Bug, what …what did you do to yourself? What are you doing here? Why didn’t you tell me …” she said, then she brushed all that aside and rushed into his arms. “I can’t believe it…you’re really here!”
“Yep, really here,” Rance said, holding her close. “Damn, I missed you, Babe.”
She pulled back and stared at him again running her hand over his shaven cheek. “You’re sure not scruffy anymore! You’re gonna kill me, Bug, but you look just like your dad now,” she said.
He laughed. “I know. It’s my sister’s idea. Whaddaya think?”
“Well…it’ll take some time to get used to it, but…you look good, real good!” she said and she hugged him again. “I missed you!”
Simon cleared his throat loudly.
“Okay, okay! Bug, I’d like you to meet Simon Romanoff,” Sophie said. “Simon this is Rance…uh…should I tell him your real name?”
Rance held out his hand saying, “Rance Van Gholston. I’m pleased to finally get to meet you. Sophie speaks highly of you and your musical abilities.”
Simon shook his head as they shook hands. “I doubt that. Perhaps you’re thinking of my brother, Ronnie. He’s over there playing the piano,” he said.
“That would explain why you don’t look anything like she described,” Rance said, grinning at Sophie.
“I seem to remember us meeting a long time ago though. I was maybe six or seven,” Simon said. “My mother and your mother met for a picnic in the park. You and my brother got into some scuffle and I ended up breaking the two of you apart. Funny that I should remember that now…pretty sure it was you. Your mother was Emily, right?”
“Yeah…I’m sorry, I don’t remember that,” Rance said.
“You were too little,” Simon replied. “So, what brings you to Catalpa Valley?”
“Sophie,” he said with a laugh.
“Ronnie, can you play Rudolf the red-nose reindeer next?” Janey asked. “It’s my favorite.”
“No, I wanna hear the one that goes…hmm, hmmm good tidings of comfort and joy…comfort and joy,” Maria said.
Jolene laughed. “I think that’s God rest ye merry gentlemen. I like that one too. We can try that one, Ronnie…Ronnie?” she said, shaking him out of his stupor.
“Huh? What?” Ronnie said. He had been staring at Sophie with her friend whose hands were all over her. He wasn’t quite sure who he was but he had his suspicions. What the hell was he doing here though, he wanted to know. Wasn’t he supposed to be out west visiting family?
“Uh…Tyrone, you play for a while, Okay? I gotta do something.” Ronnie then abruptly left the piano. “Hey, Sophie, who’s your friend?”
“Ronnie, you remember me telling you about Bug, my band mate,” she said.
Once again Rance held out his hand introducing himself properly.
“Rance, yeah…you look really different from your youtube videos,” Ronnie said, forcing himself to stand taller when he usually would slouch. After all, when confronted with a rival you wish to intimidate one must appear bigger and stronger. Why Ronnie would consider this scrawny guy a rival even he didn’t want to admit.
“Yeah, well…we all gotta grow up sometime,” Rance said staring at Sophie, who in turn was staring at Ronnie. “I only have a little time before my dad makes us go. We have the jet waiting for us, refueling. I was hoping I could talk with you, Sophie…it’s important.”
“Uh…okay, um…” she said wondering where they could go, a quiet place to be alone.
“You can use Dad’s study, Sophie. You know where it is, don’t you?” Simon said.
“You sure he won’t mind?” Sophie asked.
“I assume you’re not gonna trash it, so…go for it,” Simon said. “It was good meeting you, Rance. Wasn’t it, Ron?”
“Yeah, sure…uh, can I get you a drink or something?” Ronnie said, not quite willing to allow them out of his sight just yet.
“A ginger ale would be nice, thanks,” Rance said.
“Bug, you can have a beer or something,” Sophie said. “You’re over twenty-one, remember?”
“Just cuz you can drink, doesn’t mean you gotta,” he said.
“ Ron will bring it to you in a minute,” Simon said. “The study is down the hall and to the left.”
“Thanks, Ron,” Rance said, but his attention was only on Sophie. They left and immediately started talking, his arm casually draped around her shoulders.
“They look cute together. Don’t you think?” Simon said, watching his brother’s reaction carefully.
“Yeah…she really likes him, says he’s a good musician…a great guy,” Ronnie said, stiffly. “Better go get his drink.”
“You do that,” Simon said watching his brother head toward the bar. And under his breath he added, “And try not to poison it.”
©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved