Sophie watched in amazement as her mother was given gift after gift from Victor’s kids. Georgiana especially was so anxious that Violet might not like her handmade gift that Sophie thought the little girl would burst into tears if her mother was anything less than effusive in her thanks.
Violet did NOT disappoint. She gave hugs and kisses aplenty making an undue fuss over each gift and making each child feel as if their gift alone was the best thing she’d ever received.
“This one’s from Daddy,” Georgiana said excitedly, placing a large, gold foil covered box on Violet’s lap.
Violet looked up at Victor and he smiled. “Georgiana helped pick out the perfect one for you,” he said.
Violet lifted the lid of the box, folded back the pink tissue paper within and gasped. “Oh, this is perfect,” she said, brushing her fingertips on the plush heart print fabric of the footie PJs. “I’m always so cold,
so this is wonderful!”
so this is wonderful!”
“I wanted ta give ya one with da fire trucks on it, not silly hearts,” Peter said, grumpily.
“Violet doesn’t like fire trucks,” Julian said. “You do!”
“Why don’t you like fire trucks, Viowet?” Peter said.
“I do like them! Fire trucks are very nice, Peter,” Violet said.
“Violet likes girly stuff, Stupid-head,” Julian said.
“Guys, please be nice,” Victor warned.
“Can we have a pajama party, Daddy?” Peter asked, switching gears faster than NASCAR. “Now Viowet has PJs she can come too.”
Violet assiduously avoided eye contact with Victor at this point and reached for another gift to unwrap.
Sophie couldn’t help feeling inadequate as a daughter, not after seeing these kids in action. She sighed and vowed to start showing a bit more appreciation for her mother.
She turned and smiled at Ronnie. “Hi,” she said.
“I have something for you,” he said. “A Christmas present.”
She noticed his empty hands and gave him a curious look.
“It’s in my dad’s study,” he said and led the way.
Sophie walked with a bit of apprehension into the same room she and Rance had occupied the night before. Would Ronnie also tell her something with the potential to turn her world upside down? Somehow, she doubted it, although she might not have minded anything coming from Ronnie.
“Come sit,” Ronnie said, indicating the couch. He then went to the desk and grabbed a big plain white box with a loopy tartan bow wrapped around it. He sat on the coffee table facing her, placed it beside Sophie and said, “Merry Christmas. Hope you like it.”
“Wow, it’s heavy,” she said, slipping the ribbon off the box and lifting the lid. She stared at the black box within and opened that one, too. Then her mouth fell open. “Omigod….”
“It’s the one you liked at the shooting range,” Ronnie said, nervously wiping his sweaty palms on his pants.
“Yeah, I see that,” she said. “So, that’s why you took us to the range?”
“I wanted to see which model would be best for you.”
“Yeah, but why would you…I mean…these don’t come cheap, Ronnie,” she said.
“Well, it wasn’t just me. I talked to my dad and he thought the same as me…that it was a good idea ‘cause you’re gonna be living in the city and going to Columbia and everything so…” Ronnie said. “My dad also got you a membership to his shooting club, so you can practice and get your CCW and…”
“My what?” she said lifting the Glock carefully from its case. This model fit well in her small hand. She noticed that what made the box truly heavy was the boxes of ammo tucked all the way around the black case.
“A concealed carry permit. You don’t hafta get it, but Dad thought it was a good idea. It’s a real pain in the ass to get one in New York, but well worth it,” he said with a shrug. “I know you’re not allowed to carry at the school but…they don’t have to know, do they?”
Sophie looked up at him for a full minute, then back down at the gun.
“We didn’t want anything to happen to you, especially ‘cause... well, you kinda freaked me out that you’re resigned that something would happen. So, I figured you should have something to make you feel empowered and…It’s no way to live, Sophie, all scared about…bad stuff,” he said. “Although, if you’re living with a group of guys, you know, your band, I’d like to think they’d protect you from anything, but what if you’re alone, you know? Just walking down the street or something. You can’t count on always having somebody there to protect you in case…whatever.”
Ronnie knew he was rambling, but he couldn’t stop himself from giving her every possible reason for her to have this weapon. He expected her to shake her head and give it back at any moment. “Please, don’t be mad at me or my dad and think that we’re trying to run your life or anything. I just wanted to give you something you really could use to keep you safe…help you stay safe and… Please say something, Sophie.”
She carefully replaced the Glock in its case and closed it over, emotions building up until they spilled out of her eyes and splashed down on the black case.
“Oh, shit,” Ronnie muttered, getting down on his knees in front of her. “You hate it.”
She shook her head and just when he thought she would refuse the gift and toss it back at him, she instead threw her arms around his neck, surprising him that such a slim girl could have such a strong grip. Though in the back of his mind he knew this was just about the time for Simon to show up and ruin things, Ronnie didn’t care. He wrapped his arms around her and cherished the feel of her body against his. He’d have only this chance simply because he’d never get to do it again...he shouldn’t want to do it again.
“Thank you, Ronnie,” She whispered. “I love…I love it. Makes that Rangers jersey I got for you seem pretty lame.”
He smiled. “No worries. I love the Rangers,” he said, pulling her closer.
“This means you care about me, at least a little,” she said.
“Of course I do,” he said gruffly. “I’m not giving up on us being family some day.”
Her heart lept and she pulled back slightly to look into his eyes. “Really?” she said, all her nearly abandoned hopes jumping to the forefront again.
“You…you still don’t think it’s a good idea…your mom and my dad getting married?” he said, overwhelmingly aware of how close her lips were to his and fighting the urge to close the gap.
She seemed to melt before him, her arms slipping down from around his neck and her body leaned away. She shook her head.
“They love each other, you know,” he said, now almost angry. He got up from the floor and sat on the couch with the box between them. A solid barrier they both needed.
“I know. I saw your brothers and sister with Mom just now. They all belong together,” she said. “That’s why I should go away, leave Catalpa Valley, so my mom can just move on. I know it’s my fault. She won’t go on with her life cuz of me. They’d probably be married by now if not for me.”
“But you are going away after Christmas break. You’re going to Columbia,” Ronnie said.
“No, I’m not,” Sophie said. “I mean, I’m leaving Catalpa Valley, but I’m not doing college.”
“Whaddaya mean? You’re just gonna work on an album with your band you mean?”
“Um… no. Invasive Species is done,” she said.
“Why?” Ronnie said, stunned. “You were doing so great in Florida!”
“And we shoulda stayed there, but…” she sighed. “Too many things happened all at once, none of them good. Elian quit and joined his brothers’ band. John now has to take care of his dying mother and then raise his brother and sister when she’s gone. Danny decided to move back to Nashville and just write song for Luke Bryan or whoever. And Rick got together with some army buddies and started a bodyguard business. It’s just done and it sucks!”
“Wow, I’m sorry,” Ronnie said. “You were so good. You could’ve been big…really big.”
Sophie grimaced. “Don’t remind me. It’s too depressing,” she said.
“So…what are ya gonna do in the city, if you’re not going to college and you don’t have a band anymore?”
“Well…I got an internship at Mr. Van Gholston’s company,” she said, biting her bottom lip. “I’m supposed to go work for them, or with them, learning directly from him.”
“Holy crap, that’s amazing!” Ronnie said. “My mother would have killed to get something like that for me.”
“So, you think it’s a good thing?” she asked. “Would you take it?”
“Well…we’re very different, Sophie. What’s good for you might not be right for me, ya know? Actually, I’m sure it’s not.”
“I don’t think we’re that different,” she said, defensively.
“You don’t seem too happy about this job,” he said. “You’d be working with your friend, Rance…Bug, whatever his name is?”
“Yeah, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing,” she said, biting down on her lip again.
“Well, you don’t have to take it, if you don’t want to,” he said a bit too eagerly. “You could still just go to school. Is that what you want?”
She shrugged. “Dunno what I want. Not sure what this job is about, what I’ll get to do or if I can do it or even if I’ll like it,” she said, but her thoughts were on Rance’s other offer and whether she should tell Ronnie about it. She decided against it.
“I’m sure you’ll do great, whatever you decide. It’s an awesome opportunity, but so is college if you try and learn something valuable… whatever you want to do,” Ronnie said, putting the lid back on the box. “Anyway, um… if you want somebody to go with you to the shooting range, just give me a call, okay?”
She laughed half-heartedly. “Oh, sure, you’re gonna go into the city all the way from Catalpa Valley just to go shooting with me,” she said.
“Don’t have to. I’ll be living in the city right after New Years. I got a job, too,” Ronnie said.
Her eyes widened. “You did? Where? What are ya gonna do?”
Looking distinctly uncomfortable, he cleared his throat. “Promise not to laugh?”
She grinned. “How can I promise not to laugh without knowing if it’s funny or not?” she said. “I’m not Simon, you know. Just tell me.”
“I got a job offer at Abercrombie and Fitch…as a model,” he said.
Her mouth fell open. “Are you serious?” she said.
“Please, don’t tell Simon,” he said, cringing at the very thought.
“No, I won’t, but, Ronnie,” she said, reaching her hands out to place them on either side of his face. “This is awesome! You’ll be great.”
Without much warning, Sophie pulled him forward and planted a soft, slow kiss on his lips. She sighed and smiled as she pulled away from him. “This is the usual time for Simon to burst in and stop us,” she whispered. “Is he shirking his duties of annoying older brother just cuz it’s Christmas?”
Astonished that her thoughts were the same as his, Ronnie shook his head. “Uh…” he said, shaking the tremendously fantastic feeling of her lips ever-so-briefly on his and making a grand effort to think of anything except how to get her to do that again. “I don’t think Simon’s home. He drove separately to church and I thought it was because he couldn’t stand the kids’ chatter, but he musta gone somewhere…like to see a friend or something.”
“You don’t think…Cassandra?” she said, letting her hands fall away from his face. “I mean…her father did NOT want him ever to see her again, so…he wouldn’t go over and cause her trouble…not on Christmas day!”
Ronnie frowned. “He wouldn’t be crazy enough to do that…would he?”
Sophie shrugged just as a knock came at the door. “Oh, that must be him now. Nothing to worry about,” she said, visibly relieved.
“Come on in, Simon,” Ronnie said.
However, it was NOT Simon at the door.
©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved