*I know, I know! I said use your imagination to fill in the rest, but if you had a good imagination you wouldn’t be here!
“Before you go,” Simon said, resting his cheek on Cassandra’s curly head. “I want you to really think about what you’re doing.”
“Why? You aren’t really jealous of Ronnie, are you?” Cassandra said looking up at him. “He’s been a good friend to me, and for a long time, he was my only friend.”
“Oh, come on,” Simon said. “What about Sophie?”
Cassandra made a derisive sound. “Get real. Sophie never was there for me when she was in Miami, rarely called or even texted, but Ronnie did. He called just to see how I was and he didn’t have to. So, I trust him, Simon… as you should. It’s so nice of him to offer to help me.”
“It’s not that…not all I’m concerned about anyway,” he said. “It’s about you running away from home. Kind of childish move, don’t you think?”
“Childish?” she said, pushing out of his arms. “Are you kidding me? After all they’ve done to me, I’m the one being childish?”
“No, I mean…” He sighed and shook his head. “Cassandra, you may not have thought of the consequences of you leaving without a word of explanation to your family.”
“Why should I explain anything? Pretty sure they can guess that I’m uber pissed!” she said. “No explanation required.”
“Yes, you may be right about that,” he said slowly. “But you’ve told me about your… about Mr. Bellarosa’s grave condition and how you’ve cared for him for months now and...”
“That’s Frankie’s problem now. He’s NOT my father after all, remember?” she said angrily.
“Yes, but until today you thought he was and you loved him…pretty sure you still do. I know you’re hurt and angry and you have every right to be, but regardless of that you still do love them and they love you. Do you see what I mean?” he asked, gently taking her hand.
“They lied to me, Simon,” she said, bitter tears welling in her bloodshot eyes. “I’m done being a nurse maid to someone who looks down on me cuz I’m… I’m… illegitimate, and sin of all sins, I’m only half Italian. How stupid is that?”
“Extremely stupid, but that is neither here nor there,” he said. “Every one of us have our own prejudices and…”
“Why are you taking their side in this? I thought you would want me to leave,” she said. “What was this scholarship for then?”
“I will always and forever be on your side, Cassandra,” Simon said. “I certainly want freedom for you, especially in regard to your education and dream of being a doctor, but not like this. This way the one who may get hurt is you, not them,” he said.
“I’m not hurting them,” she insisted. “They don’t care about me, or they wouldn’t have lied to me all my life.”
“You know that’s not true, Cassandra,” Simon said, taking a deep breath before continuing. “They love you, perhaps too much and obviously shown in the wrong way, but still it’s love. They did what they did to protect you, I’m sure, because truth has a tendency of being very painful, as you well know.”
“So, I’m just supposed to act as if everything is fine and dandy, nothing’s changed?” she said, near hysterics. “Be a good little girl and suck it up??? So what that they ruined my life and stole my mother away from me?”
“That is NOT what I said, not at all, but I worry you are cutting your nose to spite your face,” he quickly said, seeing by her furious expression that she was about to blow a gasket. “Listen to me, please, and honestly think of the answer to this next question. How will you feel if Mr. Bellarosa’s condition worsens while you’re gone from home? What will you feel if the man you thought was your father—now your grandfather-- dies and you have not reconciled with him?”
She turned her back on him and stared out the window, a long minute passing before she spoke so low he could barely hear it. “Relief, if you want to know the truth,” she said fiercely. Then she burst out in tears, covering her face with her hands and added, “And… horrible.”
Simon wrapped his arms around her and let her cry.
Ronnie didn’t have to search long for Morris Kramer. The man was waiting for him at the door with his overcoat in hand.
“Where ya been, Boy? Morris said. “Thought ya left without me.”
“Wouldn’t do that,” Ronnie said. “Just was talking to Cassie and stuff. Real nice of you to get her the full schalorship, Grampa. She’s so happy she can’t stop smiling.”
“Glad to hear it,” Morris replied, grinning at Sophie. “So, is our piano girl coming along for the ride?”
“No, I thought it was about time I got to know my grandmother, if I can ever get her away from my mom,” Sophie said.
“Oh, you better come with us then, Girlie,” Morris said. “They’re having a serious powwow.”
“Come on, Sophie,” Ronnie said, shoving her coat at her. “I’ll try not to make ya car sick…you don’t get car sick, right?”
She laughed at his nervous expression and slipped on her coat. “Depends how fast you go. I’m okay at twenty miles per hour.”
“I hope you’re kidding,” he said, just as he felt a tug on his coat. “Hey, Jules, what’s shaking, Buddy?”
“Can I come for a ride in your new car, please, Ronnie?” Julian asked, his huge hazel eyes pleading. “I’ll be good.”
“You’re always good. Get your coat,” Ronnie said, digging the keys out of his pocket.
Sophie sighed. “How do you start a relationship with someone you thought was dead all this time? I mean, it’s pretty late to only just now get to know my grandmother,” she said.
“Now you know how Cassie’s feeling,” Ronnie said just as he opened the door to find someone there. “Mom! Whatcha doing here?” She stared at him until he remembered. "Merry Christmas, Mom!" he said, kissing her cheek.
“I think I was invited, wasn’t I?” Catherine said, holding out the carrier containing her baby. “Would you, Ronald, she’s getting rather heavy? Hello, Morris. Merry Christmas.”
“Well, isn’t this nice!” Morris said. “Your mother will be happy to see ya. Andy couldn’t make it, huh?”
“On call and on the way to a wreck on the highway,” she said with a careless shrug. “Sophie, I see you’re here too…never too far from my son.”
“Yeah,” Sophie said, grinning. “We’re like Siamese twins or something.”
“The correct term is conjoined, but enough hospital talk. Am I too late for a mimosa?” Catherine asked, removing her full length fox coat.
“Nope, even some food left over if you’re hungry,” Morris said. “Just follow the sound of clinking glasses, there’s a good lassie. We’ll be back soon.”
“Where are you going?” Catherine looked from her son to her step-father and then to Sophie and Julian, a seemingly odd mix of people to her way of thinking.
“For a ride in Ronnie’s new car!” Julian said, apparently even more excited than Morris.
“Your father gave you a new car for Christmas?” she shrieked. “I’ll murder him!”
“A-hem…I gave him the car and you better not kill me or your mother might be a bit put out about becoming a widow again,” Morris said, giving her a pinch on the cheek.
“Oh…I see,” Catherine said, grinding her teeth in irritation. “What did you give Simon? His on private island?”
Morris grinned. “Nope, all he wanted was a wee favor…a full scholarship for his little girlfriend. Rather nice of him to bypass the condo I was thinking of getting him for the favor, dontcha think, Cathy?”
“Oh, shit,” muttered Ronnie who caught the dangerous look on his mother’s face and literally pulled Sophie and Julian out of harm’s way.
Catherine narrowed her eyes so they looked like blue chips of ice. Then she looked down at her fussing baby and her features softened once more. “He’s never been a selfish boy,” she said. “I’d like that drink right now.”
They all watched her turn on her heels and head straight to the liquor cabinet.
“Da-yam,” Ronnie said, breathing a sigh of relief. “I dunno how you do it, Grampa, but I really want you to teach me.”
Morris chuckled as they all went outside for the virgin ride in Ronnie’s new car.
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