If Love Were By Design, page 21
“And exactly why aren’t you selling her?” William asked.
“Because she’ll most likely die.” Sam stressed. Sam tried to take her one last time before saying forcefully, “I’ll take her.”
“No! I’m going to buy her.” William insisted.
“But she’s sick. She shouldn’t even be out here. I can’t sell her.” Sam asserted.
“I’m going to buy her.” William said again. William relentlessly insisted on purchasing the kitten for nearly three minutes before Sam reluctantly agreed to give William the kitten for free. Then Sam went and got the paperwork, the Comfortable Cat Vet information, and a cart for them to fill it up with things they needed. It was when Sam left that William uttered, “That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe they were going to euthanize her. This is New York. If you ask me, I think he was only half telling the truth. I bet they don’t care because they’re only thinking of the bottom line.”
“That’s terrible.” Veronica said and looked at the kitten nearly brokenhearted.
“So what cat are you getting, Babe?” William asked her.
“Yours.” She said and petted her. He smiled at Veronica. “She is cute.”
“Yeah, and her fur isn’t white so it won’t show up as much. But let’s not get too attached.” He warned her. “If she doesn’t make it through the surgery I promise we’ll get another one, only not here.”
They left an hour later with a car full of cat things, and drove to Comfortable Cat Vet immediately. The moment William set the kitty crate on the counter the receptionist stood and looked in it saying, “Oh! You brought her back. Is her snoring worse? It sounds like it.” She paused and then apologized, “Oh, wait. Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”
“No, I have paperwork from someone who did come here. But she’s mine now, and I was told you could perform the surgeries she needs.” William explained.
“Yes, I can see if the doctor can do it—it’s pretty busy today, though. We’re closed all weekend, but he might bring us all in for something like this. I’ll go see what the doctor wants to do.” She stated, and then added, “I’ll be right back.” She came back a minute later with a smile. “Okay, he said he could stay late tonight and do it. It’s best not to wait much longer.” She pulled out some paperwork. “If you fill this out, I’ll take her in the back room. We have a heating pad that she loved laying on yesterday.”
“Is she in pain?” William asked quickly.
“Don’t worry. We’ll give her some pain medicine.” She reassured him. They exchanged paperwork for the kitten. “So, what’s her name?”
William looked to Veronica. She shrugged. “We haven’t had time to think of one.” He said.
“Alright.” She looked at the old paperwork. “It used to be . . . Princess Buttercup.”
“Yeah, that is definitely not her name.” William retorted.
“Alright, Kitty Cat it is for now.” The woman said with a smile and put a nametag on their crate. Once they filled out the paperwork, and their kitten was taken to the back room, they went up to the desk. She took the paperwork. “So are you paying with cash then? I don’t see any insurance.” William nodded and took out his credit card. After the bill was paid the receptionist asked, “Did you want to meet the doctor? It’s just that he’s pretty busy so it would be a long wait, maybe three hours. But you could go and come back.”
“No, but when will you call me to pick her up?” He asked.
“We will call you tomorrow to let you know how she is doing no matter what.” She said. “If all goes well, you might be able to get her Sunday or Monday, but that’s up to the doctor.”
“That’s the saddest thing.” William said again when they got into the car. “She’s in pain and everything.” He added, “I hope she makes it.”
“I’m sure she will.” Veronica said. “We should name her now though. So we jinx her, but in a good way. Then it will feel more permanent, like she’ll make it.”
“Alright, like what?” He asked.
“Something like Hailey or . . . no, no, no!” Veronica smiled, “We should call her Hope!”
“Yeah, I like that, Hope. Sure beats Princess Buttercup. I wouldn’t have let you name my cat that.” He laughed. “Hope isn’t exactly a cat name, but it’s appropriate! It’s perfect.” He added, “Good, she’ll be fine.” He held her hand.
By the time William and Veronica arrived at his house the front doors were wide open. There were several vehicles parked outside but it was the catering van, the DJ who came to set up early, and a decorator who was staging his house with white lilies and white twinkling lights. It was quite a project because his house was a three–story white stone mansion, and the entire downstairs was to be decorated.
There was a two–story guest home about fifty yards to the right, and then the entire property was enclosed with a stonewall fence around extensive grounds. The house looked like a castle, because of its length and size. It reminded Veronica of an old English manor.
“Uncle Will!” A small scream came from across the way. Little Claudette came running toward them with Cleo on her heels. Nora, who had let them out of the guesthouse, started walking toward them as well. Nora waved. William took Veronica’s hand and met Claudette and Cleo in the grass. They smacked into William’s legs, because they hadn’t bothered slowing down. William let go of Veronica so he could pick them both up. “Uncle Will, I get two Christmases!” Claudette said with excitement.
“Wow! You’re so lucky!” William said, matching her enthusiasm.
“Yes, I am! And I get two Easters from now on, too!” Claudette said.
“Really.” William said, however he lost his exuberance.
Cleo tugged on his shirt to get his attention. He looked at her. She put her head on his shoulder and squished his lips with her small hand. “Daddy’s not here because we got divorced.”
“Oh.” William said, and then added, “And does that make you sad?”
“No!” Claudette said quickly. “Because now we get two Christmases!” Claudette giggled and cheered.
“What about you Cleo? Does that make you sad?” He asked her.
“Yes.” Cleo admitted softly.
“What makes you sad?” He asked her.
“We don’t see Daddy. And I don’t like Ann; she doesn’t let me play with her toys!” Cleo griped.
“Who’s Ann?” He asked her.
“Ann is the daughter of Jennifer Baxter soon to be Jennifer Watts.” Nora said, answering his question. Nora took Claudette from William’s arms because she was suddenly squirmy. But when Nora took her, she popped two fingers in her mouth and sucked on them. Instantly she was calm and still. Claudette stared at Veronica, still wary of her. Veronica smiled at her.
“I’m sorry, Nora.” William apologized.
“Don’t be. We’re happy. Aren’t we girls? You get to sleep in my bed with me now, and we like that. And I bet William will let us stay with him for a while if you ask him really nice, Cleo.” Nora said.
“Can I?” Cleo asked William with wide eyes.
“Would that make you happy?” William asked Cleo.
“Yes!” She said quickly.
“Then, yes you can!” William consented. He turned to Nora. “Where did you want to stay? Here or in New York?”
“In your condo, for now. I don’t want to change our lives too much (more than I have to). They know your condo. They love you because you spoil them.” Nora grinned. She added, “I want to put the girls in daycare so they can make some friends. I want to get a job, part time, to keep my sanity. I miss working.” Nora confessed.
“I’m so sorry, Nora.” Veronica said.
“No, I know I gave it my all. If I didn’t have the girls I would have given up a long time ago, long before he did, anyway. But it’s a relief. I knew it was a mistake the day I married him—before that really. But he made the decision for me when he left, and I don’t think I could have done that to my girls. They lo
“Well, of course you can stay at my condo as long as you want. Seriously! And you can have the two guest rooms, as long as you don’t mind that I’m gone a lot. I work, and of course, I spend a lot of time with Veronica.” William said.
Nora put down a squirming Claudette. “No, I don’t mind! I don’t need you to entertain us. I know you’re a bachelor. I don’t need a replacement dad for my girls. I want a familiar home. If we get too much, we can always get a place of our own.”
“No! Seriously, stay in the condo, please. That isn’t what I meant at all. Please! I want you at the condo!” He smiled, and then hugged Nora. They squeezed Cleo who was between them enough to make her wheeze as if all the air was being squished out of her. “I love you!” William said to Nora.
“I love you, too! Thank you!” Nora said. When they let go, Nora looked at Veronica. “Happy birthday! Sorry I’m bumming it out.”
“Thanks, and you’re not.” Veronica said.
“So, where’s the new car I keep hearing about?” Nora asked.
“Oh, we didn’t get it.” William said.
“What? William, you told me the day I left that you were getting her one!” Nora said.
“We got a cat, instead.” Veronica said.
“That’s crazy! Where is my $100K car?” Nora teased him.
“I’m not dating you.” William said.
“You’re not . . . wait . . . . Shut up!” Nora pushed William in the arm. “You two are dating now?” Nora looked at Veronica and grinned. Veronica smiled. “This is the best news! I’m excited for you both! You’re perfect for each other. I told William that the day I met you.” She added, “I’m happy for you!” She laughed happily.
“Thanks, but we are trying not to make a big deal of it tonight. I don’t want a lot of pressure. So don’t tell Dad and Mom. They can either figure it out on their own tonight, or I’ll tell them after they leave. And I invited her parents, too. Chip went through my contact list and invited everyone I know. My hope is there’ll be so many people we won’t run into them more than once or twice.” William explained. “I want it to be no pressure.”
“I’m not entirely sure I want to be bumping into them a lot myself. They keep hounding me about moving to Texas now . . . and living with them again would make my life miserable! I’d much rather live with you.” Nora said. She changed the subject, “So where is this cat?”
“It’s sick. We had to drop it off at the vet.” Veronica said.
“That’s hilarious. Let me guess, William picked it out.” Nora smiled at William. “Remember that bird we got Dad?” She laughed. “You wanted to get a different one because it was being picked on at the store and its feathers were coming out. You wanted to save it, but Mom said, ‘No! I’m not getting Dad a featherless bird!’ And instead we got that yellow canary and then all its feathers came out not three months later. We had to put it on an expensive fresh fruit diet! Even after all that, its feathers never came back.” Nora laughed. “So getting a sick cat is totally like you! Now that’s cute! You’re the most sympathetic guy I know.”
“I’m cold!” Cleo whined, tugging William’s shirt again.
“Come here, Cleo. Let’s go back inside.” Nora replied and clapped her hands to take her daughter from William. He handed Cleo to Nora. “I have a babysitter in the guesthouse. She’s watching television. She doesn’t play with the girls, but at least she isn’t yelling at them.” Nora grinned. “As long as she’s there when I come over after I put the girls to bed I’ll be happy. I want someone there to make sure they’re okay. It’s turning out to be the most expensive babysitter I’ve had, after the plane ticket.” She laughed. “Speaking of which, I should go feed her—order her a pizza or something. I even got her ice cream bars to make her happy. Happy babysitters make happy moms, but you’ll learn all about that Veronica.”
“Don’t pressure her, Nora! I mean it!” William warned her before Veronica had a chance to even think of a reply. He then changed the subject. “When did you get here?”
“About ten. I would have called, but I thought you were getting her that car.” Nora smiled at Veronica.
William took Veronica inside his house, and Nora and the girls left for the guesthouse. William gave her a tour as he did his condo, except it took much longer. There was an indoor and an outdoor pool, a five–car garage filled with old racing cars, many bedrooms, an office, formal and informal living room, formal and informal dining room, kitchen, silver–room, library, billiards room, countless bathrooms, and so many more rooms she lost track of the names and where they were. By the time they were half–way through the tour Veronica said, “I’m starting to think you’re richer than I thought you were.”
“Yeah?” He asked. He shrugged while saying, “Probably.”
“You know I’ll never remember all of this, right? I lost track on the first floor.” Veronica teased him.
“I’ll have to bring you here more.” He smiled.
“So you used to come here every weekend?” She asked.
“Nah, every other weekend or so I would have a barbeque or something, or I’d come up to get away. Sometimes, I get tired of being around people all the time. It’s been a while since I’ve come up. I like it at my condo better, because it’s closer to you.” He said.
“Okay, so you have a condo, a house, a boat, and a cabin.” She laughed, “Anything else?”
“A vacation home in Greece.” He added, smiling.
“You’re teasing me,” she rolled her eyes, “because I was teasing you.” She playfully pushed him before he pulled her into a hug.
“No, I’m being serious, and I’ll take you. Next year, we should take a month off, and go.” He pointed out the window. “People are arriving. We could hide in one of these rooms and make out before we go downstairs.” He smiled and brought her closer to him.
“I might drink a lot tonight, so I’d rather you take advantage of me now.” She admitted.
“There’s an insane amount of people here.” Veronica observed, and then drank champagne before adjusting her birthday crown. A white, feathered scarf was around her neck, and many strands of white pearl of plastic beads. Kimmy bought them for her so no one would be in question who the party was for.
“Does William know all these people? Kimmy asked her.
“Yes. He works with a lot of them and is friends with everybody else.” Veronica said. “Don’t ask me for any of their names. He could tell you though.”
“That explains all the beautiful people; a quarter of his guests are models.” Kimmy guessed.
“I don’t know.” Veronica said and shrugged. “Probably.”
“He must be head–over–heels about you if he put together a party this big, so you can meet his folks without getting uncomfortable. It’s a good idea. He’s got it bad. My guess is you’ll be engaged by Christmas.” Veronica smiled but said nothing. When Veronica didn’t respond Kimmy changed the subject. “So, I hate to bring it up on your birthday, and I’ve been trying not to mention it, but since Travis and William are looking at his new car, I have to ask. What did William find out?”
“Oh! Nothing! I mean, he thinks it’s nothing. He went to his work twice last week around seven, and he was there. He was down in the gym the first time though, and no one knew where he was at
“I’m too worried to talk to him. I don’t want it to end.” Kimmy confessed. “Maybe it’s all in my head, and if I say something it will ruin it.” She changed the subject, “Have you met his parents yet?”
“No.” Veronica said. “I haven’t seen mine, either.”
“Oh, I saw them when I came in. They were pulling up in their truck and I waved. But you know them. They’re more introverted than you. So, they didn’t wave.” Kimmy said.
“They came? I’m glad they did. They didn’t say one way or the other. When William gets back, I will try to find them.” Veronica quickly changed the subject when she spotted William’s sister. “There’s Nora. You and her would get along. She’s funny.” Veronica waved and tried to flag Nora down, however, she approached a guy who had brown hair, brown eyes, and was at least six inches taller than her. He wore a pinstriped suit with a jacket, but his tie was removed and the top button was unfastened. When she touched his arm, he turned around, and they hugged a little awkwardly. He didn’t seem to know if he should have hugged her, and immediately he let go. Veronica stopped waving, but a second later Nora spotted her. Nora brought her friend over.
“Happy birthday, birthday girl.” Nora congratulated her, and added, “Cute attire.” She laughed.
“Oh, you’re envious! I’m sharing my beaded necklaces with only a select few (meaning Kim), but you can have a few strands, too—you’re clearly jealous enough to comment about them.” Veronica jested and took off a strand of fake pearls and put it over Nora’s head.
“I feel older by wearing them! And I look like a million bucks! Are these real?” Nora asked, laughing. “Veronica, this is Colin Hartford, William’s and my friend from Texas. And this is William’s girlfriend. Her name is Veronica Mitchell? I think Mitchell, right?” Colin put out his hand for Veronica to shake it. She took it. He smiled and greeted her in a low, deep voice that sounded like wind though a gutter. Nora beamed at him as if she hadn’t seen him in a long time, which was probably true.