Wednesday, 1 April 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization" - Ch. 4

Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")  
Links to: Chapter 1Chapter 2, Chapter 3

I couldn't have timed this better. Happy Easter!

Chapter 4

“Viv, Happy Easter! Sabrina, nice to see you again. It’s been too long,” Gabe Nowak said. He threw open the door to his semi-detached house in the Annex. Viv was busy flapping her umbrella in a flurry of raindrops, but Sabrina stepped inside with a smile and a quick kiss.
Viv hurried to give her father a long, damp hug. “Happy Easter, Daddy,” she said, rising on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
“You should come around more often ‒ I’ve been worried about you.”
“Sorry. I’ve been busy at work.”
“Sure, sure, I understand.” In a heartier voice, Gabe added, “Let me take your coats, ladies.”
“Thanks, Gabe,” Sabrina said. She slipped out of hers to reveal a daffodil-yellow silk shift, and his square, ruddy face brightened.
“Don’t you look lovely, sweetheart.”
“Thanks. You look pretty dapper yourself.” Gabe was dressed in a blue-and-cream-checked shirt and navy dress pants tailored to mask his paunch. He bowed to acknowledge her compliment.
“Here you go, Daddy.” Viv handed him her coat. She wore a black-and-white-striped sweater and black pants that bagged on her petite frame. Gabe brushed her cheek with his hand.
“You look lovely, too, Peaches. Come on, everyone into the kitchen. Magda’s been cooking up a storm, and she’ll be offended if you don’t start stuffing yourselves immediately.” He put his arms around the young women’s shoulders and led them down the hallway into the kitchen.
The daylight filtering through the French doors overlooking the dripping garden made the room feel bright and airy. Magda was pulling a rosy ham from one of the stainless-steel ovens, and the aroma filled the room. The ham was large enough to feed a dozen people, not the four who had gathered to celebrate the holiday together. She hoisted the roasting pan onto the range top and turned with a grin on her flushed face.
“Viviane!” Magda rushed forward with the oven mitts still on to hug the young woman. She rocked Viv back and forth with her bare, muscular arms before holding her out for inspection.
“What have you been doing? Starving yourself?” She took off a mitt to pinch Viv’s arm, making the young woman squawk.
“No, of course not,” Viv said, rubbing her arm. “But now that it’s just Sabrina and me, I don’t cook as much as I used to.”
Magda tsked. “No point crying over that worthless Kyle. Put on a pretty dress and go dancing. Show the young men in this town what a treasure you are.” She turned to Gabe. “Am I right?”
Gabe tried to keep a straight face as his daughter scowled. “Who am I to argue? You’re always right, Magda.”
The housekeeper nodded. “You bet. As for you young lady,” she said, eyeing Sabrina, “you’re skinny, too, but you’ve got great legs. Those shoes you’re wearing are murderers.” Magda’s own feet were encased in pink bunny slippers, but her floral skirt ended a saucy two inches above her knees.
“I think she means ‘killer,’” Viv said.
“Why, thank you, Magda. That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Sabrina pointed the toe of her white stiletto with its splashes of black, green, yellow, and pink.
“Let’s not talk about her shoes,” Viv muttered.
“Why not?” Magda asked.
“They’re ‘Rouge.’”
“Oops! Well, they’re still beautiful.” Viv shook her head, but Magda put her arm around Viv’s waist and pulled her toward the island crowded with serving dishes and platters. “Come on, beautiful girl, help me get the food on the table so we can eat.”
The table was decorated with pussy willows and a vase of pink and purple tulips, plus a red or purple Easter egg with an intricate geometric design in front of each plate. Magda passed a serving bowl to Gabe.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Cranberry and low fat feta with greens. Take some.”
He spooned some onto his plate, but took two servings of scalloped potatoes when Magda wasn’t looking.
“I’m trying to get your father to eat more green vegetables. The doctor says his cholesterol is too high.”
“How high is it, Daddy?” Viv asked with concern in her voice.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. With all the exercise I’m getting flipping houses, it’s not a problem.”
“What are you working on now?”
“A duplex in Cabbagetown. We’re converting it back into a single-family home. I’m working with a new contractor.”
“The cowboy,” Magda interjected.
“He’s a cowboy?” Viv asked.
“Nah. Magda just calls him that because he lives on a horse farm near Oakville and drives a pick-up truck. His name is Tom Lockhart. Good man. A carpenter by trade, and he does nice work. Mike Birch from the bank recommended him.”
“How do you like early retirement, by the way?” Sabrina asked, nibbling some greens from her plate. She had skipped the potatoes and loaded up on salad, braised red cabbage, and fresh asparagus. “It’s been ‒ what ‒ over a year now? Do you miss working at the bank?”
“Sometimes, like when I discover asbestos in the walls, or have to dig up a front yard to replace the sewer pipes. Managing a mutual fund portfolio is clean work, if you don’t mind wearing a suit and sitting on your ass all day.” He shrugged. “It was getting old. Time to have some fun. What about you, Sabrina? Still happy climbing the corporate ladder?”
Sabrina fluttered her fingernails in the air. They were painted a shiny black with gleaming gold tips. “Real estate banking works for me. I don’t like getting my hands dirty.”
“Like slinging drinks in your mother’s bar?”
“That would mean living back in Newfoundland. No thank you. That’s why I went to university here in Toronto.” She pointed her thumb at Viv. “I wouldn’t like looking after Viv’s kiddies all day, either. But chacun à son goût.”
Gabe turned to his daughter. “How’s work?”
“Good,” Viv said, spooning some mustard onto her ham. Magda’s home cooking was making her hungrier than she’d felt in weeks. “The kids keep me sane. Six is such a fun age. It’s when they start recognizing simple word patterns and figure out that five and three make eight. There’s a new discovery every day, and I’m there to see it. I wouldn’t earn my living any other way.”
Her face lit up as she spoke, and Gabe smiled at her affectionately. Viv had been such a loving kid, mothering all her playmates even before she was old enough to start kindergarten. A grade school teacher was all she had ever wanted to be, and her love for children and learning shone through her eyes. Despite her setback with Kyle, she was a lucky woman, if only she knew it.
“And how’s it going, you two, living back together again?” Gabe asked. “You’ve got a condo just outside the Distillery District, don’t you, Sabrina?”
“Three blocks away. It’s great having Viv back again.” Sabrina smiled at her friend. “Just like old times.”
“Sometimes I worry that I’m cramping your style,” Viv said.
Sabrina shook her head, but before she could say anything, Gabe interrupted. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that, Peaches. Why not move back in here with Magda and me? We’ve got tons of space, and you can have your old room back.”
Magda had got up to fetch a basket of rolls from the kitchen. “I’d love to have our beautiful girl back again,” she said over her shoulder. “You wouldn’t have to worry about a thing, Viv. I could cook for you and do your laundry, just like I used to. We could have girl talks again!”
Viv glanced at her father’s hopeful face. She had to admit, moving back in would have its advantages. After sleeping on the futon in Sabrina’s office for seven weeks, she was longing for a real bed and some privacy. Sabrina was seeing a new man pretty regularly, and it was awkward when the two of them were feeling amorous in the one-bedroom condo, especially since the office didn’t have a door.  
On the other hand, how pathetic would it be, a thirty-one-year-old woman moving back in with her father? It wasn’t as if he needed her anymore, not with Magda living in.
Gabe had hired Magda to be their housekeeper when Viv was only ten. Magda had kept the house clean, looked after the laundry and the shopping, been there when Viv got home from school, and cooked supper every night. It was handy having her live in, especially when Gabe was away on one of his overnight business trips. Magda became like a mother to Viv, helping her survive the insecurities of adolescence and dating, until Viv had graduated from high school and was ready to start university. She had refused to stray further afield than the University of Toronto, however, not wanting to be too far away from her father, but ready enough for her first taste of independence to move into residence.
Could she stand being coddled by these two again, and having heart-to-hearts with Magda? Viv shuddered. At least Sabrina left her alone to mope in private, but Daddy would probably invite men home for dinner, anxious for her to start dating again. It might be cramped at Sabrina’s, but at least she wasn’t being smothered by good intentions.
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it,” she said, reaching out to take Gabe’s hand. She didn’t like lying, but it was better than hurting his feelings. “It’s sweet of you to ask,” she added. He smiled and squeezed her hand.
“Who’s got room for dessert?” Magda asked, setting down a traditional Polish Easter cake, a white-frosted lamb kneeling on a plate of green-tinted coconut.
At the end of the afternoon, after the young women had thanked Magda for the fabulous meal and Viv had kissed her goodbye, Gabe escorted them back down the hallway. Viv and Sabrina each carried a pink straw basket brimming with chocolate and marshmallow eggs, jelly beans, and a chocolate bunny. The rain had stopped, and sunlight poured onto the grey slate floor when Gabe opened the door.
“Don’t be strangers, girls. Come visit an old man now and then.”
Viv hugged him and kissed his cheek. “I promise, Daddy,” she said. “Sorry I haven’t felt much like visiting these past couple of months.”
“I just want to see you happy again, Peaches.” He kissed both her cheeks. “Don’t forget to go out and have some fun now and then.”
Sabrina slid her arm around Viv’s waist. “Don’t worry, Gabe. I’ll make sure that she does.”


Stay tuned for Chapter 5 on Easter Sunday, April 5!

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