“So…um…we’ve got a bit of a hitch,” Freddy said, going for casual and missing the mark by a mile.
“Hitch in what?” Victor said, popping a grape tomato into his mouth, washing it down with some scotch.
Freddy grimaced rubbing the back of his neck—a tell tale sign he was going to impart some bad news. “Remember when I said my mom wanted to surprise everyone by showing up here at your Christmas party?”
“Of course,” Victor said, swirling the ice in his drink before taking a sip. “The party’s for her. Where is she anyway? Thought you were bringing her.”
“Yeah, well…surprise! She’s not coming,” Freddy said.
Victor almost choked on his scotch. “What?”
“I’m sorry, Vic. You went to all this trouble and we have everybody here and…”
“I’m guessing she’s just not ready yet, got cold feet. That’s understandable. Don’t worry about it, Freddy,” Victor said. “It’s not like it’s a waste of time to have a party. We’re still having fun.”
Freddy cleared his voice. “Yeah, well…if it was just that…”
“What do you mean? Has your mother’s progress been stilted or she’s regressing?”
“No, nothing like that. Exact opposite,” Freddy said, looking a bit stunned. “She’s doing remarkably well. In fact…there’s been some unforeseen developments.”
Victor frowned. “Odd behaviors? Drastic change in her personality? That’s to be expected in such a case as hers, Freddy. I wouldn’t freak out just yet. She’ll get back to normal…eventually.”
Freddy shook his head. “Normal is not likely from what I can see. Normal is gonna be vastly different than…You won’t believe this, Vic. Right now, she’s at a Hanukkah party…with her…with Dr. Kruger. I can’t believe it myself,” he said.
“Wait…what?” Victor said. “You never told me she was Jewish.”
“She’s not…or wasn’t,” Freddy said. “Hell, I don’t think she even knows anymore.”
“I’m lost,” Victor said. “Your mother , who never had been Jewish to this point, would rather celebrate Hanukkah with her doctor than be at a Christmas party with her own family? A family she hasn’t seen in…decades?”
“I know…it’s crazy, but…she says she’… in love,” Freddy said, shaking his head. “They are in love.”
“With Dr. Benjamin Kruger???” Victor shouted. When several people looked over at them he lowered his voice. “Are you fricken kidding me? Your mother fell in love with her doctor… a married man I might add?”
“Uh…no, he’s widowed, some five years or so she told me,” Freddy said.
“Are you sure? The man was always talking about his wife…thought for sure she was alive by the way he spoke of her,” Victor said.
“Sounds familiar, don’t it?” Freddy said. “Violet’s the same way.”
Victor gaped at him. “And um… how do you feel about that?” Victor asked cautiously. “Your mother in love with someone other than your father?”
To his surprise Freddy grinned. “I think it’s great. About time she had some fun in her miserable life.”
“Violet, I imagine, might feel differently. So, when do you think your mother might be ready to show herself to her family?” Victor asked.
“Willing to have a New Year’s party to find out?” Freddy asked.
Victor laughed. “Sure! Why the hell not?”
“I wish she could be here tonight to meet everyone. I’ve been dying keeping this a secret from everybody…especially Violet. She’s gonna kill me when she discovers how long I’ve been lying to her.”
“Where is Violet anyway?” Victor said, looking around at all the people enjoying themselves at the party. “Haven’t seen her all night.”
“Funny, I could have sworn that was Kenny’s truck we just passed,” said Violet as she drove down the road toward Victor’s house, Mrs. Beckel riding shotgun.
“Do you mean your son?” she asked. “I haven’t seen him in ever so long. He must be all grown by now.”
“You know Kenny?” Violet said, astounded.
“Oh, yes. Richie brought him over a few times. We had cookies and milk, little Kenny and I, I mean, while Henry and Richie worked on that beat up old car which they insisted would be worth millions after they restored it. Who in this day and age would ever want an old ’65 Mustang, I’d like to know.”
Violet giggled. “I would have died to have one, back in my teen years,” she said, before she suddenly looked at the lady beside her. “Hey! You heard me just now. I wasn’t even yelling.”
“No, I can hear fine when I put fresh batteries in my hearing aid, and since I was going to a party and meeting scads of new people, I truly thought I ought to hear properly so I can catch their names,” Mrs. Beckel said, pleasantly.
Violet silently fumed. So that was her reward for saving a despondent person from suicide? A sore throat from over an hour of near screaming so she could be heard! And all that was needed was a couple of Energizer Bunny packs.
“It will all be worth it, you’ll see. Besides, it’s Christmas, the time for doing for others,” Richard reminded her.
Violet sighed as she stopped her car in front of a neighbor’s house. Being there were so many cars in front of Victor’s home, there wasn’t any room for hers. She and Bonnie Beckel were barely to the front door before it sprung open and Jocelyn jumped out to pull her inside.
“Where have you been?” Jocelyn said hugging the stuffing out of Violet. “We’ve been so worried…thought you were lying dead on the side of a road somewhere. Called you about twenty times, left seventy text messages and…Mrs. Beckel? What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Jocelyn, dear,” Bonnie said going on tip-toe to reach up and kiss her ebony cheek. “So nice to see you…been so long. How is your mother? Is she here?”
“You haven’t heard then,” Jocelyn said. “She died a few months back.”
“Oh…so sorry to hear that. My condolences, dear. My Henry, too, is gone,” Bonnie said, her smile crumbling. “They were two of the good ones.”
“Yes, they were…but…how did you get here?” Jocelyn asked. “Why are you here?”
“Your friend Violet insisted I come…she said something about combining Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years all in one party. Well, I had to see that!” Bonnie said, removing her silver fox fur coat and handing it to Violet. “Oh, my stars! Is that Flora and Louis Trent? And Martina Rothchild is here! Goodness, even Morris Kramer.. haven’t seen him in ages. There’s Andrew Delaney, Mary Teresa and Eddie Ballucci and Ella Kessinger. Wow, you were right, Violet. I’m going to have a dandy time. Well, please excuse me. I have old friends to meet with.”
Violet and Jocelyn stared in wide-eyed wonder as the old lady greeted nearly every person there. “Here I thought she was a recluse and that she’d end up sitting in a corner bored to death. She’s quickly becoming the life of the party,” Violet muttered.
“Don’t see how you could have gotten that idea. She ran Catalpa Village Voice since I can remember. Only gave it up when Henry became ill. She knows everybody and everybody knows her,” Jocelyn said.
“Well, today was the first I knew of her existence,” Violet said, sounding rather miffed that she was the only one in town who had never known this person.
“Anyway! So, Kenny found you, huh?”
“Kenny? No,” Violet said. “That really was him I saw just now!”
“Sent him out to look for you when you didn’t answer your cell. Why don’t you ever answer your phone?” Jocelyn whined.
“Unlike the rest of the world, I am not glued to my phone and I never will be, so stop bitching about it!” Violet snapped, shoving Bonnie’s fur into the closet along with her own with great difficulty.
“Violet, what’s wrong?” Jocelyn said, grabbing her arm.
“Nothing,” she muttered, still pushing her coat into a closet which truthfully couldn’t hold one more. She accidentally tugged on the glove in a pocket and tiny pills scattered all over the terracotta tile covering the foyer floor.
“What the hell…” Jocelyn said, bending down to scoop them up. “What are these?”
“What any desperately lonely person needs to kill themselves painlessly, of course. Give ‘em here,” she said holding her hand out for them. When Jocelyn merely stared, her eyes wide with fear, she quickly added, “They’re not mine!”
“Then why are they in your pocket? Violet, what is going on?” Jocelyn said, grabbing both arms this time. “Tell me!”
Violet rolled her eyes. “Oh, for heaven’s sake…”
“Is it because of Victor? I’m sure you can work it out if you’ll just…”
“I’m not the one that’s suicidal!” she said through gritted teeth, just as the front door burst open and Kenny came in.
“Good to know, Mom,” he said angrily. “Why did you buzz right by me without even slowing down? I was looking for you all over town!”
“Didn’t know it was you, Kenny,” she said and she raised her and to stop them both from saying another word. “Listen, I stopped to see about Bonnie Beckel’s cottage which is for sale and would suit me fine, but what I found was a woman a hair’s breath away from snuffing out her life. I took the pills away from her and brought her here in the vague hope she won’t try that foolishness again. Now if you’re done interrogating me and bitching about me NOT being where I am expected to be, I’d like to join the party and if I’m lucky I’ll find some spiked eggnog and get hammered. Please excuse me.”
Kenny and Jocelyn stared after her, their mouths hanging open, then slowing exchanged astonished looks.
“Mom’s gonna get hammered on eggnog?” he said. “That can’t be good.”
“Good?” Jocelyn said. “Dang, boy, she’s never yet finished a glass of wine without passing out. Besides, that eggnog’s got nothing in it but a zillion calories, so I wouldn’t worry if I were you.”
Worried or not, they both kept a sharp eye on Violet from that moment on.
©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved