“Where to next?”Nikki asked as she and Victor got into the car.
“I’m taking you back to the hotel so you can rest.”
Nikki said nothing as she glared at him defiantly, her arms folded across her chest.
“Wrong answer, I guess?”
“Nikki, come on. You need your rest, remember what the doctor said at your last appointment, the stress isn’t good for you, and you know it has an affect on the pregnancy too.” He tried fruitlessly to reason with her.
“Victor, I’m not going back to the hotel and that’s final!”
“Alright, I don’t want to argue with you.”
“Good, where are we going next?”
“You’ll see when we get there,” Victor replied not taking his eyes off the road.
“You won’t tell me now?” Nikki asked, her curiosity piqued.
“No, you’ll see soon enough.”
A little while later, they pulled up to a three bedroom red brick house with a flowerbed filled with daisies, tulips and daffodils. The lawn was perfectly cut and the grass a healthy green.
“What are we doing here?” Nikki asked as they walked up the brick driveway to the front porch.
“This is my old house.” He replied as he knocked on the door.
“What?” Nikki asked, shocked by what she’d just heard.
“This is my old house, the one I lived in when I was a kid.” He reiterated patiently. “If I’m going to face my past, this has as big a part to play in that as anything else.”
Nikki stood there stunned as she tried to take in what she’d just heard.
“Hello.” The woman who stood in front of them after opening her door to them was in her late twenties. Although she was obviously better off than most people, there was no air of superiority in her voice or her demeanor. Her hair was long and thick, dark brown, her skin soft and rosy and her eyes a beautiful shade of dark green. She wore an old, faded pair of jeans and a t-shirt that read We’re here for a good time, not a long time with a cartoon of a young brunette wearing a red dress with a slit in it that would have been considered more than a little risque by most people.
“I’m Victor Newman, we spoke on the phone a few days ago.”
“Yes, I remember, please come in.” The woman couldn’t help but study him for a few moments as he and Nikki walked into the house. Although she had obviously been taken by surprise at their arrival, the woman remained congenial. “I’m Cindy, pleased to meet you,” she said, shaking hands with them both. Her smile was genuine and her manner down to earth as she motioned to them to sit down as they entered the livingroom. “Please make yourselves comfortable.”
As they talked, Victor couldn’t shake the feeling he’d seen her before. “Cindy, how long have you lived here?”
“In this house or in Buffalo?”
“Buffalo.” “I grew up here, only a few blocks from here, actually. Why?”
“The last house on the corner about three blocks from here?” he asked thinking back to when he was a child and used to tag along with a young girl who looked a lot like the woman now sitting across from him.
“Yes, how did you know?” Cindy asked amazed. As she studied him intently once again, a light of recognition slowly found its way into her eyes as she said, “Christian? Christian Miller?” “You got it.”
“Where have you been? What are you doing here and why did you wait so long to come back home?” Cindy asked with a smile.
Turning to Nikki, she said, “We grew up together, he and I were really close. Having him around was almost like having a brother around to protect me.”
“It’s a long story, let’s just say I had my reasons for staying away as long as I did.”
“You lost me,” Nikki said with a smile as she sat and listened to them talk about old times.
“Cindy lived just three blocks away from me when we were growing up. I used to tag along with her and her friends since none of the guys wanted me around. I was a runt.” Victor explained with a bittersweet smile.
“And having you around came in handy.”
“Oh?” Nikki asked intrigued.
“Yeah. One time, me and three other girls were walking to the candy store not far from where I lived. Everything was going well until this girl walked up to us. She was on her way back from the candy store.”
“Samantha Whitemore,” Victor said with a strange edge to his voice.
“You still remember that? You still remember her name?” Cindy asked surprised.
“How could I forget, her eyes all but fell out of her head when I yelled at her.” Victor smiled at the memory of the young, seemingly innocent blond haired, blue-eyed girl’s face as she realized she couldn’t intimidate him.
“You yelled at her?” Nikki asked a little surprised and unable to hide her smile.
“Yeah, she was chirping, trying to cause trouble and make the rest of us feel bad about not having as many toys or the pretty clothes she had or living in as big a house as she did. She was the richest kid in the neighbourhood. She was always bullying us, putting us down because we didn’t have one thing or another, or because our parents did work her parents thought was beneath them. None of us had the guts to stand up to her, but Chris did. When she started yelling at us to turn around and go back where we came from, since we had to pass by her house to get to the candy store, Chris yelled back at her and told her that, contrary to what she believed, she didn’t own the whole block, all she had were her dolls so she’d better just keep quiet and mind her own business. He ended by saying with an attitude like hers it was no wonder she didn’t have any friends. She wouldn’t know how to treat them if her life depended on it.” Cindy smiled at the memory and then started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Nikki asked with a smile of her own.
“By the time Chris was done with her, Samantha was bawling her pretty blue eyes out.”
Victor couldn’t help but chuckle as the memory came back to him.“Boy did that feel good! I’d been wanting to do that for a long time and just didn’t have the guts until then.”
“Even as a six year old, you had more guts than most adults we knew.”
“Six?” Nikki asked surprised he would have had so much courage at such a tender age.
“Yeah, you heard right, six years old and he told off a twelve year old girl who had more money than all of us put together and was twice his size.”
“More money than brains,” Victor said as he thought back to that day.
“Never been one to mince words, have you Chris?” Cindy asked with a bright smile as she shook her head.
“No, why start now?” Victor said with a cheeky smile.
“I thought I recognized you, but I wasn’t sure. When did you move here?” he asked curious.
“We moved here shortly after your dad left and you went to the orphanage. Your mom really wanted to stay here, but there were too many memories, too much pain in this house, so she sold it to Mom and Dad. She said she didn’t feel comfortable with selling it to anybody else and knew we’d take good care of it. She was heartbroken to have to leave you like that, to have to abandon you, but she didn’t have a choice.”
“I can see she was right. The place looks great.” Victor said with a small smile as he looked around. “You’re right, she didn’t have a choice, thanks to my father. The bastard walked out on us and never looked back.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dredge up bad memories.” Cindy said before adding as the cries of a baby began to ring through the air, “That racket you hear is my youngest waking up from her nap. Excuse me.”
“Mind if we look around?” Victor asked, unable to help himself.
“No, go ahead, I’ll be right back.”
Victor rose to walk the house and was surprised to find the blending of old and new all around him. There were old plates his mother had used every Sunday when they had dinner, sitting neatly in the kitchen cupboards. There were new coffee mugs and silverware stored away neatly in other cupboards and drawers. As he entered the kitchen, he noticed something above the kitchen sink. Walking towards it, a bittersweet smile spread on his face as he whispered, “It’s the sun-catcher I made for my mother one year for mother’s day.”
“You made that?” Nikki asked surprised.”
“What, you don’t think I could? Don’t think I have the patience to do something like that?” Victor teased smiling.
“In a word, no.” Nikki replied honestly, with a hint of a smile.
“Mommy,” said a little girl as she walked upstairs. She looked like Cindy, with her brown hair and a rosy complexion, but her eyes were blue and held a light of curiosity he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Sorry, Chris, Clair was a little fussy.”
The young girl’s eyes widened as she whispered with a smile, “Uncle Chris?”
Confused, Victor looked from the little girl standing in front of him to Cindy, who stood but a few feet away, holding her youngest daughter.
“What would you like, Suzzy?”
“Can I have a cookie?”
“Go on into the livingroom and I’ll bring some cookies, okay?”
With a bright smile, Suzzy scampered off to the livingroom to sit and wait.
“Sorry about that, just give me a minute and I’ll explain everything.”