“Wish I could drive this car,” Julian said. “It’s so cool!”
Ronnie glanced over at his little brother and pulled over next to a chest high snow bank. “Come on, sit on my lap. You can drive for a while.”
Julian stared at him in disbelief. “But…I’m too little and I don’t have a license.”
Ronnie laughed. “There are no cops around here to catch ya. Nobody’s on this back road at all right now. It’s the perfect time for this. Dad used to let me and Simon drive this way all the time, so you can too.”
Julian gleefully released his seatbelt, hopped onto Ronnie’s lap and grabbed the steering wheel with his small hands. When they started away from the curb he gasped. “Wow, so cool!”
“It sure is. Hey, Grampa, Sophie! Watch how good a driver Julian is,” Ronnie said to the two in the back seat.
“Huh? Oh, wow, doing good, Jules,” Sophie said, not very enthusiastically.
“Just don’t crash, Sonny-boy,” Morris said. “It’ll upset your Grandmother something awful if we don’t come back.”
“I won’t,” Julian said.
Morris glanced over at the glum look on Sophie’s face. “You okay, Lassie?”
“Huh? Oh…um…I’m fine…just thinking,” she mumbled, looking out the window.
“You look sad,” Morris said. “You upset the piano couldn’t get delivered on time? I tried, but the snow storm threw a wrench in my plans. Or maybe you don’t like it at all?”
“Are you serious?” she said. “I love it! I can’t wait to play it…learn to play it. I can’t thank you enough for it, Mr. Kramer.”
“Now, Missy…” he said frowning at her.
She giggled and kissed his cheek. “I mean Grampa.”
“That’s better!” he said still looking shrewdly at her. “ I sense there’s something more. Will you have room for the piano at your mother’s place? Don’t let the Baby grand fool ya… it’s huge!”
She forced a smile. “It’s not going in Mom’s house cuz I won’t be there either and I definitely want it with me…wherever I go. I’m supposed to be moving to the city in January…or sooner if…”
“If?” he asked.
Sophie sighed. “I have a big decision to make,” she said, lowering her voice. “I have three roads in front of me and I don’t know which I should take. It could affect the rest of my life, my whole future.”
“Why are we whispering?” he asked, not bothering to lower his voice.
She glanced to the front seat where Julian was chattering non-stop and Ronnie, hopefully, listening to him. “It’s…personal.”
“I see…so…need help deciding?” Morris said.
She stared at him a moment then nodded. “My mom wants me to go to college,” she started.
“Do you?” he asked.
She moved her head from right to left making a funny face, then she shrugged. “I had when I knew what I wanted to study.”
“Music,” she replied instantly.
“What’s changed?” he asked, confused. “You have more reason now that you have a piano.”
“Yeah, but my band is disbanded, gone, never to regroup, so what’s the use of studying music?”
“For your own enjoyment,” he said.
“Yeah, but that’s hardly practical,” she said. “If so much money is gonna be spent on an education it should result in something that’s gonna get you somewhere. You know what I mean?”
“’Course I do,” he said. “I’m just surprised you’re thinking so clearly. No offence but most young people don’t give that much thought as they go to expensive universities for basket weaving and fourteenth century French literature, never giving a thought as to where the hell they’ll be able to use that in the real world.”
Sophie nodded. “I know it’s all paid for and everything, but I also know my mom and she’ll want me to repay Mr. Van Gholston for it eventually…even if it’s just a drop in the bucket for him. It's the right thing to do, you know?”
“True. Okay… so what are the other two roads?” he asked.
Once again she looked to the front seat and lowered her voice a bit more. “I was offered an internship and a job,” she said.
Morris let out a breath of relief. “Well, Lassie, I’m glad to hear it. I was worried some fool asked you to marry him and that you were seriously considering it.”
Her eyes nearly popped out of her head and she covered her mouth to keep from laughing out loud. “Nope,” she said shaking her head.
“Good, you’re way too young for that,” he said sternly. “So…this internship?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know what it’s about really, but it’s with Van Gholston Industries so…”
Morris nodded thoughtfully. “Impressive. People kill for those positions,” he said.
“Yeah, I figured. That’s why I’m not too sure I can do it, even though I would love to try. I just… I’m so ignorant about…about everything!”
Morris patted her arm affectionately. “There now, let’s not get carried away. You’re a bright girl, a quick learner and sure to catch on fast with whatever is set in front of you.”
“That’s what Rance said, but I think you’re both biased,” she muttered grumpily.
Morris chuckled. “Perhaps, but…we both know a good thing when we see it and you are nobody to dismiss lightly. I’m thinking there’s a killer instinct in you somewhere… just need the right tools to draw it out. Lawrence can help with that.”
“Why does everybody say that? What do they see that I don’t?” she mumbled.
“Perhaps the golden hair is getting in your way,” he suggested.
He laughed and shook his head. “Never mind…it was something I heard in an old song once and I thought it was funny. Apparently I’m the only one.”
“Really? How does it go?” Sophie asked, now excited.
“Something like… ♩ ♬ …Don’t let that golden hair get in the way, baby …♪ ♫,” he sang, completely tone deaf.
She refrained from grimacing with difficulty. “Maybe I know the song. Is it very old? Know who sings it?” Sophie asked eagerly.
He smirked. “You know, your whole countenance changes when you talk about music. Ever wonder why?”
“No need to wonder,” she said, swiftly turning dejected again. “It’s my passion, but you can’t pay rent and eat on passion, can you?”
“Some manage,” he said, then swiftly changed gears. “So, what is the third road?”
“The third what? Oh…the job,” she said, biting down on her bottom lip while casting a glance to the front seat again. “A really good paying job as a personal assistant.”
“What’s the catch?” he asked.
“Who says there’s a catch?” she said.
He smirked. “You’re whispering again, so you obviously want to keep it quiet…at least from someone we both know and love,” he said tilting his head ever so slightly toward Ronnie.
Sophie suddenly realized revealing so much to Morris Kramer may not have been such a great idea, but it was way too late now to worry about it. “My friend Rance needs an assistant now that he’s working for his dad and…he asked me if I wanted to help him and work for him… instead of the internship. That way I could get a real salary instead of whatever they give to interns. Most don’t get paid at all I’ve heard so… Either way he says I’ll learn the business straight from the top so… it's a great opportunity.”
“I’ll say it is,” Morris agreed. “If he truly is just a friend. Things could get sticky if anything else develops…if you know what I mean.”
She certainly did know what he meant…it was upper most on her mind and the most troubling aspect of the whole thing.
The look on her face told him everything he needed to know. He patted her arm again and said, “If I were you, knowing what I know about you and Van Gholston Industries, I’d take the internship, keeping some distance from your friend so you can stay friends while working together in the same building, and go from there. Of course, college is still something you can do in future or if things go awry. Regardless what you say, studying music would not be a waste of time for you,” he said, smiling kindly. “Let me know if you need help finding a place to live in the city and I’ll get that piano there before you get your bedroom set up. Who needs sleep when you can tickle the old ivories, right?”
Before she could answer, they were back parked in front of Victor’s house.
“Hey, Grampa, wanta drive her?” Ronnie asked, helping him out of the back seat.
“That’s okay, Sonny-boy,” Morris said. “It was a thrill just going for a ride. You enjoy the car in good health. Just don’t go too fast, or your mother will kill us both!”
“Not too sure that won’t happen anyway,” Ronnie quipped as Julian grabbed the old man’s hand.
“Come on, Grampa! Let’s tell Peter all about me driving Ronnie’s car!” Julian said, dragging the old man up the walkway to the house.
Ronnie turned to Sophie. “How was the back seat?” he asked.
“As back seats go, it’s pretty nice,” she said.
He grinned. “So, what did you and Grampa talk about so much?”
Sophie sighed. “Life choices, I guess” she muttered.
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