Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")
Links to: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10
Viv was awakened by a creaking sound, as if someone were opening a door. She lifted her head to glance at her clock radio; it was six thirty. Peering out of the office into the hallway, she saw Rick tiptoeing toward the door. He was buttoning his shirt as he walked. She laid her head back down and pretended to be asleep in case he glanced in at her. She really needed to find a place with a bedroom door. She heard him fumbling with something ‒ probably his shoes ‒ and then the door opened quietly and shut again.
Viv jumped out of bed. She padded to Sabrina’s room, where the door was open, and crossed to the ensuite bathroom. She could hear the shower running and knocked on the door.
“It’s Viv. Can I come in?”
She opened the door and stepped into the steamy room, fragrant with soap and floral shampoo.
“What are you doing up so early? I hope that Rick didn’t wake you,” Sabrina said.
“No,” Viv lied. She sat down on the toilet lid. “So, I guess you had a good night.”
“The best. Rick is fabulous. Need I say more? How did things go with Drew? I hope you aren’t mad at me for deserting you.”
“I was at first, but not anymore. I’m going to his place Saturday night to make dinner, plus we’re going to a wedding together in a few weeks.” Something clattered to the shower floor. “Drew says I’m the kind of woman he can get serious about.” The shower stopped, and Sabrina’s head popped out from behind the curtain.
“You’re kidding.” Sabrina’s face was anxious as she pushed her dripping hair back. Viv shook her head. Sabrina reached for her Egyptian cotton bath sheet and disappeared behind the curtain. “Aren’t you moving too fast? You two just met.”
“Drew’s the one doing the pushing, but I don’t mind. I really like him.”
Sabrina muttered something under her breath, and the curtain flashed open. She stepped onto the bath mat wrapped in the towel, her mouth set in a grim line.
“Does the word ‘rebound’ mean anything to you?”
Viv frowned. “You think this is a rebound relationship?”
“Oh, Vivvie.” Sabrina walked to the cabinet, opened the top drawer, and pulled out a moisturizer. “I’m going to make a few calls after my meeting this morning. I wanted to know what you thought about Drew before I did a full diagnostic on him. No point in wasting time unless you liked him.” Sabrina massaged the lotion into her face. “I’m going to find out who he’s dated and how long the relationships lasted.” She pointed at Viv in the mirror. “I know that you’re hopeless when it comes to new relationships, but Drew should have had more sense. Maybe he’s just as loose a cannon as you are.” Sabrina shrugged. “Not that you wouldn’t be happy with him.” She squeezed some foundation onto a sponge and dabbed it across her forehead. “Of course, if you two have children, they’re going to be pygmies.”
“I get my height from Grandma Nowak. I think the tallness gene skipped my generation.”
“Well, maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll land on your kids. Anyway, I’m going to do some checking up on Drew before you get in any deeper. Your break-up with Kyle really sucked. I’m not going through that again.”
Viv walked up behind Sabrina and hugged her. “I know. I’m sorry I’ve been such a pain.”
“Not a problem, but we don’t want it to happen again.” They stared at their reflections in the mirror, the statuesque redhead with the unwavering green eyes, and the pretty blond with the sweet face.
“Love you, Sabrina,” Viv said.
“Love you, too, Vivvie.”
Viv was in the middle of a math lesson right after lunch the next day when there was a knock on the classroom door. The children stared as Vice-Principal Daya Chopra stuck her head into the room.
“Good afternoon, boys and girls. I have to talk to Miss Nowak for a minute.” She nodded at the board, where Viv had written down a simple sum. “I see you’re working on addition today. Work it out in your lesson books while Miss Nowak and I talk in the hallway.” She looked at Viv pointedly and withdrew.
Viv had never been called from a classroom by a vice-principal before, and felt uneasy as she followed Daya into the hallway.
“Viv, we have your father’s housekeeper on the office phone,” Daya said in a low voice. “I’m afraid there’s a medical emergency. I’ll watch your class until one of the teacher’s aids can cover for you.”
“Thanks,” Viv called over her shoulder as she trotted down the hallway for the main office. Once she was there, the receptionist handed her the phone.
“Magda,” Viv said, “what’s wrong?”
“Now, don’t panic, Viv,” the housekeeper said in a reassuring voice. “Your father went in for his physical this morning, and they’ve checked him into the hospital. His EKG showed that the blood flow to his heart isn’t so good, so they’re going to do an angiogram to see what the problem is. That’s when they inject dye into his arteries and take an x-ray. I’m at the hospital right now ‒ the Toronto General ‒ in the Cardiovascular Investigations Unit. That’s on the second floor of the Eaton building.”
“I’ll be right there,” Viv said. As she hung up the phone, her chest constricted with panic, but she had to hold it together for her father’s sake. She dialed the number of a taxi company and asked for a cab right away.
Traffic was with them that afternoon; fifteen minutes later Viv was running up the stairs to the cardiovascular unit. She found the waiting room and spotted Magda flipping through a magazine. Magda stood up to give Viv a hug as the young woman hurried into the room.
“He’s having the procedure done now. He had to wait three hours until they could fit him in and prep him.” Magda pointed at the chairs, and they sat.
“When did he have the EKG?”
“At seven thirty this morning. He went early because he had to do one of those fasting blood tests, too. He was really ticked when they told him he had to come here for the angiogram. He had planned to work this morning.”
Viv half-smiled. “I bet. Has he been having any chest pains that he didn’t tell me about?”
Magda shook her head. “He did seem kind of short of breath climbing stairs lately, but I thought it was because it was hot, and he’s been working so hard.”
Viv sighed. “Thank goodness he had heatstroke on Wednesday and I talked him into the physical. Otherwise, we may not have found out about his heart until things got worse.” She looked thoughtful. “If it was heatstroke.” Viv glanced at Magda. “What happens after the test?”
“The doctor looks at the result while Gabe stays flat on his back for three hours. They’re putting a tube up his groin, so the wound needs time to seal. If everything is okay, I can take him home. If not . . .” The housekeeper’s face fell, and she looked teary. “Sorry,” she said, waving her hand.
“Now, Magda,” Viv said, embracing her, “don’t go borrowing trouble, eh? That’s what you always tell me.”
“I know,” she whispered, but a fat tear rolled down her cheek. She nodded and thumped Viv’s back before releasing her.
“Have you had any lunch?” Viv asked.
Magda swiped at her nose. “No. First I was sitting with Gabe, and then I was waiting for you. I didn’t want to miss you.”
“You should have called me sooner. I could have sat with Daddy.”
“What’s the use of that? I didn’t want to call you too soon cause I knew you’d drop everything and come.”
“Well, go get something to eat. I’ll be here if anything happens. I’ll call you on your cell.”
“Okay,” Magda said. She picked her purse up off the floor and stood. “Don’t drink the coffee from the machine. It’s terrible. I’ll bring you some.”
Forty minutes later, a tall, middle-aged man wearing scrubs came into the waiting room. His face was solemn, and Viv felt a flash of anxiety.
“Miss Nowak?” he said in a deep voice.
“Yes.” She jumped up.
“I’m Dr. Magoro. I did the angiogram on your father this afternoon. Please sit.” Viv reseated herself, and the doctor sat beside her. “We got the result from your father’s test, and I’m afraid that I’m not happy with it.”
“No?” Viv shrank back in her chair, her stomach doing flip flops.
“No. There is definitely some blockage in the right coronary artery. I’ve discussed it with your father, and he’s agreed to an angioplasty to correct the situation. That involves putting the catheter back up his groin, just as we did with the angiogram, and inflating a balloon in the artery to press the plaque back against the wall. A mesh tube called a stent is left in the artery to prevent it from narrowing again. It’s a standard procedure, one I’ve performed hundreds of times.”
Viv relaxed a little. “Has my father had a heart attack, Doctor?”
“No, not yet. Looks like we caught it just in time.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Viv said, brightening. “When will the procedure be done?”
“Right away. He’ll be taken back in shortly.”
“Can I see him first?”
“No, there isn’t time.”
“How long will he have to stay in the hospital afterward?”
“Just overnight. He’ll be awake for the procedure, just as he was for the angiogram. He’ll need to take it easy for a week afterward because we want the incision in his groin to heal properly. It’s also possible he might experience some heart spasms, but that’s normal. We’ll give him some nitro glycerin for that. Now, about that home renovation work he’s been doing ‒ he’ll have to stay away from that for two weeks. I don’t want him ripping out toilets while he’s recovering. We’ll schedule some blood work and a stress test for two weeks from today, and if everything looks good, he should be able to go back to work after that. He’ll need to be more careful with his diet in future, but we’ll send him home with information.”
Viv smiled. “That’s great news, Dr. Magoro. I guess I was expecting worse.”
The doctor stood up. “Overall, your father’s health is fine, but he’s not a young man anymore. He should consider hiring help to do the more strenuous work.”
Viv rose beside him. “Please make sure to tell him that, Doctor. He won’t listen to me, or to anyone else. He tries to save money wherever he can.”
“Well, health scares remind us that we’re not invincible.” He smiled, and his brown eyes were kindly. “I’ll certainly have a talk with your father about slowing down a little.” He held out his hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Nowak.”
“Thank you, Doctor. You as well.” She shook his hand. “Take good care of my father.”
“I surely will,” he said, before walking away.
It was seven o’clock at night. Viv was sitting by her father’s bedside while he shovelled chicken, rice, and green beans into his mouth. He had had nothing but liquids all day in preparation for the procedures, and he was starving. Magda had stayed until Gabe was settled into his room, and then Viv had sent her home to rest. It had been a nerve-wracking day for the housekeeper, and she looked exhausted. There was a knock on the hospital room door, and Tom Lockhart looked in.
“Gabe, how’re you doing? Are you up for a visitor?”
Gabe waved his fork, gesturing for him to enter. “I’m doing okay, now that I can finally eat. How’s it going at the house? Did you finish the kitchen backsplash?”
“Yup. We just need the appliances now. So, what’s been happening with you?” Tom pulled up a chair, and Gabe explained about the angioplasty while finishing the food on his tray. The contractor looked like he had come straight from work, wearing dusty, paint-spattered jeans and a t-shirt. He settled back comfortably in his chair with one foot propped on the bed rail.
“Sounds like you’ll be out of commission for a couple of weeks. Might put us behind schedule.”
“No it won’t. I can still come to the house and help with the easy stuff, like the painting.”
Viv’s eyes flashed with anger. “No you won’t, Daddy. Didn’t you listen to the doctor? You’re going to stay away from the house for two weeks. I know you ‒ as soon as you’re back, you’ll be ripping out tiles and overdoing it.”
“Will not. Besides, Dr. Magoro told me to try to keep my stress levels down. Do you know how stressed out I’d be, sitting at home watching another mortgage payment fly by before the house even goes on the market?”
“Tom can take care of things, can’t he?” Viv turned to the contractor, who paused before answering.
“I can do most of it and bring in help when I need it, but your dad has to make some decisions first.” He looked at Gabe. “You said you wanted the paint lighter on this one. What colours do you want? And what about the tile for the bathroom floors and the showers? Then there’s the basement fireplace and the kitchen appliances.” He peered at Viv from under bushy black eyebrows. “Your dad makes the decisions, not me.”
“Don’t you work with an interior designer anymore?” Viv asked her father.
“Nah, just for the first two houses. After that, you get a feel for things, depending on how you want to price the house. It’s no big deal. I’ll drop by the building supply centre and order some stuff. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
“Oh, Daddy.” Viv sighed. “Look, I’ll help. How about if you tell me what you’re looking for, and I’ll visit the building centre to pick up some samples. Then you can choose the stuff you like, and Tom can buy it.” Her father looked uncertain. “I don’t mind. The term is winding down, and my reports on the kids are almost finished, so I’m not that busy. Besides, you always said I had good taste. This could be fun for me.”
“Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind,” Gabe said.
“Not at all. We can start tomorrow. If it’ll make you feel any better, I can help with the painting, too. How hard can it be?”
Gabe and Tom exchanged a glance. “That would be a big help, Peaches. Thanks. If you’ve got some paper on you, we’ll make a list of things you can look for tomorrow. You can stay for dinner afterward.”
“Sorry, I can’t stay for dinner tomorrow. I almost forgot. I’ve got a date.”
“Really?” Her father’s face perked up. “Who’s the guy?”
“A friend of Sabrina’s boyfriend. His name is Drew Collins.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s an executive recruiter.”
“Head hunter,” Gabe said with a frown. “I lost a lot of good people to guys like him over the years.”
“Maybe so, but Drew’s a nice man, and a real go-getter. Sort of like you. He drives a beautiful Maserati Quattroporte,” she added, hoping to impress him.
Tom nodded. “Nice ride.”
“Kind of flashy,” Gabe said. “Well, make sure he treats you well.”
“I will.” She kissed her father’s cheek. “Now, let’s get started on that list.”
Viv got home about an hour later, tired, but relieved that things had worked out so well for her father. The condo was empty; Sabrina was probably out with Rick. She microwaved a low-cal entrée for herself, and pulled out her laptop to check her e-mail. There was one from her mother. Viv sighed. Did she really have to deal with it tonight, or could it wait until tomorrow? Deciding that she’d worry all night if she didn’t read it, Viv clicked on the message.
As your father may have told you, I am flying to Toronto on Monday to meet with my Canadian distributor about the winter collection. I’ll be staying at the Castle Crest until Thursday, and would like to have dinner with you on Tuesday evening. I think it’s time we talked, don’t you? I’ll make the dinner reservation. Let me know if you will come, please.
I look forward to seeing you.
Viv frowned. So like her mother. No apology, no “how are you doing,” no information about what she wanted to talk about. Just a cold summons.
Viv shut down the computer. She needed some time to think before deciding how she would respond. Maybe she should finally face her mother, woman to woman. Tell her that there was nothing left between them, and that she never wanted to see her again. That would be satisfying, wouldn’t it? To give the ice queen some of her own back?
Or maybe it would be better to let loose and tell her mother what she really thought of her. Ask her how she could leave her husband and daughter behind ‒ her ten-year-old child ‒ for a career in New York. In shoe design, for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t as if Véronique had left her for something worthwhile, like doctoring babies in third world countries. Who the hell cared about wearing flats instead of three inch stilettos?
And not to bother coming home for Christmas or birthdays ‒ to send cards with cheques that were never cashed instead, not that Mother ever took the hint. And to show up for only two hours for her sweet sixteenth birthday party. They hadn’t had even a minute to talk alone before the airporter had whisked Mother away again.
Viv refused to even think about her university graduation; that always made her furious. The woman was a self-centred, selfish bitch who didn’t deserve three minutes of her time, let alone a whole dinner.
Viv breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. She needed to calm down. She mustn’t let Véronique get to her like this. It only hurt her, not her mother. She took another deep breath and held it before exhaling.
Right. She obviously had some deep-seated emotions about her mother’s desertion, and she needed to deal with them. Just like the grieving process she had read about in magazine articles, she needed some closure. Maybe it would be best to see Mother one last time. Get some things off her chest. Close the chapter on her childhood and never think about it again. She must live in the present and envision a happy future.
She opened the computer and rebooted it. When her e-mail came up, she began typing.
I will meet you in the lobby of the Castle Crest Hotel at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Yes, I agree it’s time we talked.
(She had never liked the name, “Viviane.” Why had Mother named her that? Mother was only half-French, after all. She’d been born in Buffalo, for pity’s sake.) After a moment, Viv added a postscript.
FYI, Daddy had an angioplasty today. The procedure appears to be successful.
There. Let her stew, if she had any compassion left in her cold, narcissistic heart for the man who was technically still her husband.
Viv shut down her computer and turned to a more pleasurable pursuit. She was going to make dinner for Drew tomorrow, and needed to consider some recipes. Was he more of a steak and potatoes kind of guy, or a salmon with raspberry coulis and couscous? Or how about spaghetti and meatballs ‒ she made a killer sauce, if she said so herself. But maybe spaghetti was the kind of thing a bachelor made all the time for himself? Better scrap the spaghetti.
She lay on her stomach on the futon, flipping through a cookbook. It was supposed to be cooler tomorrow with a chance of rain. How about pork schnitzel and potato salad? Who didn’t like that? She could team it with fresh asparagus. Done!
Glad to have made a decision, she made a list of ingredients to pick up tomorrow. Daddy was going to loan her his car to visit the building supply store, so she could pop into the grocery store on the way back. With that done, she padded barefoot into the kitchen to start the strawberry cheesecake she was bringing for dessert. She was going to impress the heck out of Drew Collins, or die trying!
Why does Viv's mother want to see her all of a sudden? Check back on Wednesday, April 29, for Chapter 12.
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