Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15
For the past 8 weeks, I've been posting a chapter from The Dating Do-Over twice a week, and now I'm at the last chapter of this preview, Chapter 16! You can still buy the e-book on sale for just $2.99 today and tomorrow, but as of Thursday evening at 7 PM Eastern time, the price goes back to $3.99. Check at the end of the chapter for purchase details.
I hope you've enjoyed this portion of Viv's story as she tries to figure out her romantic life. Thank you for joining me, and I hope you'll check back to this website from time to time to see what I'm up to next. All the best!
Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. An hour later, Viv was sitting cross-legged on her futon with a peanut butter sandwich on a plate and her cell phone glued to her ear.
“I know, Daddy. It’s a very good business. Uh huh. Yes, I understand that Mother is very upset. What? How can you take her side? Well, it sounds like you think I should give up teaching and move to New York. You know I would never do that.”
As Viv paused to listen, Sabrina looked into the room. Viv motioned for her friend to enter.
“Everything you say is true, Daddy, but I’ve made up my mind. Let’s not fight about this anymore. I’m going back to the building supply store after work tomorrow to look at tiles for the showers. Don’t worry, I’ll drop by the house to get the measurements from Tom first. Is there anything thing else I should look at while I’m at the store? Lighting fixtures? Okay, I’ll take some pictures for you. All right, I’ll stay for dinner afterward. Love you, Daddy. Good night.”
Viv put down her cell as Sabrina sat down on the mattress and pointed at the sandwich.
“I thought you were having dinner with your mom?”
Viv nodded. “I did, but I didn’t eat much. I was hungry by the time I got home.” She took a bite of her sandwich.
“Dinner didn’t go well?”
Viv swallowed and grinned. “Depends on who you ask. I had a great time.” She explained about her mother’s offer to pass the business on to her. Sabrina whistled.
“I heard what you said to your dad about never giving up teaching, and I agree. You’re a born teacher. But what an opportunity! I’d give all my teeth to inherit Rouge. Do you think you could talk your mom into adopting me?”
Viv shook her head as she took a second bite. “You have an adorable mother who doesn’t have a block of ice for a heart. Mother’s not worth it, even for all her pretty shoes.”
Sabrina sighed. “They’re awfully lucrative pretty shoes. A girl can dream. Oh well, back to real life. Would you listen to the presentation I have to give tomorrow?”
At three fifteen the next day, Viv was finishing an art class with her students when there was a knock on the classroom door. Barbara, the school receptionist, stuck her head in.
“Guess what, boys and girls? Miss Nowak’s mom is here for a visit. Say hello to Madame Roux.”
Viv looked up in surprise. Barbara disappeared, and her mother sauntered into the room. She whipped large, white sunglasses from her face and said, “Bonjour, boys and girls.”
“Bonjour Madame Roux,” a handful of the students responded.
Véronique smiled. “What charming children! Don’t mind me. I’ve been longing to see where my daughter teaches. I’ll just have a look around while you finish up for the day.” She walked to the back of the room while Viv stared after her and the children giggled. Viv returned her attention to her students with difficulty.
“All right, everyone, the bell is going to ring in ten minutes. Leave your art work on top of your desk so that the glue can dry, and don’t forget to sign your name to it. Jasmine, will you take around the recycling bin, please? Put all your leftover scraps in the recycling bin for Friday’s art project. Jeremy, go back to your seat, please. Jasmine doesn’t need your help.”
Ten minutes later, the children were lined up in single file at the door. “See you tomorrow. Have a good night,” Viv called after the bell sounded. The children rushed from the room, leaving Viv alone with her mother. She stormed to the Wall of Fame where her mother was studying the portraits.
“What are you doing here? How dare you ignore my wishes. I told you last night that I never wanted to see you again!”
Véronique ignored her outburst to remark, “These photos are delightful.” She pointed at a boy with his face painted to resemble a lion. “Who is he supposed to be?”
“Simba from The Lion King.”
“Isn’t he a dear with those big, brown eyes. You’ve captured him roaring.”
“Yes. Never mind that. What do you want?”
“And this girl with the toy stethoscope who is listening to her puppy?”
“She wants to be a vet.”
“Adorable. Look how serious she is.”
“Mother, you can’t just show up while I’m teaching.”
“You took all of these yourself?”
“Yes. For Super Star Friday, when the children dress up as their heroes.”
“What a marvellous idea. And these photographs are remarkable. You’ve got a real talent for lighting and composition.”
Viv sighed. “What are you doing here, Mother?”
Véronique looked at Viv for the first time. “I had a long phone conversation with your father last night after you left the restaurant. It seems that I don’t know my daughter very well. He told me what a fine teacher you are, and how you’ve always loved children. I thought I would come and see for myself. These portraits ‒ I didn’t expect to find them here. You’re a gifted photographer, Viv.”
Viv noticed that her mother did not address her as “Viviane,” but was unmoved. “I’m an amateur, but photographing my students combines the two things I love.”
Véronique nodded. “I can see that. I have a friend in the city who’s a portrait photographer. May I take some of your pictures to her? I’d like to hear what she thinks of them.”
Viv was flattered by her mother’s praise, but decided to appear non-committal. She crossed her arms over her chest and did not meet Véronique’s eyes. “Who did you say she was?”
Viv’s eyes widened. “Frances Harvey! She’s wonderful. She’s photographed Mother Teresa and the Queen of England. The portrait she took of Nelson Mandela the year before he died was extraordinary.”
“Yes, she’s very good. I’ve known her since we went to private school together. She took black and whites of us back then with a cheap little instant camera.” She leaned closer to Viv. “She asked us to pose in our underwear. Very risqué. Even then, I knew she was special.” She studied Viv. “I think you have something. May I ask her to have a look at your children?”
Viv hesitated, rotating her ring. She didn’t want to owe her mother for a favour, but Véronique had said that she was talented. She wouldn’t be willing to show her photographs to Frances Harvey if she were lying, would she? Not even Véronique would waste the time of an important artist.
“All right. Let me get something to put them in.” Viv hurried to her desk to get a legal-sized envelope.
“Wonderful,” Véronique said with a sly smile.
After her mother’s departure, Viv was sitting at her desk. She couldn’t get over the fact that Frances Harvey would be seeing some of her photographs. She must be dreaming. If Ms. Harvey liked them, Daddy and her friends would be so proud of her.
Daddy! She had forgotten all about him. She was supposed to get the measurements for the showers, check out the tiles and the lighting fixtures at the building supply store, and drop by his house in time for dinner tonight. She checked her watch; it was four thirty. She’d better get a move on, or Tom might be gone for the day.
Viv was relieved to see Tom’s truck still parked out front of the house. She knocked before entering.
“Tom?” she called.
There was no answer, but she heard a clatter upstairs.
“Tom,” she called again as she trotted up the stairs to the second floor.
“I’m in here.” She rushed down the hallway to the master bedroom and into the ensuite. Tom had ripped up the old linoleum and was tossing it into a box.
“Hey, Viv.” He paused, his face breaking into a smile that brought out the crinkly lines beside his eyes. “Good to see you. Have you come to work?”
“Sorry, not tonight. I know I promised I’d be by to help, but I’m working for Daddy tonight. He asked me to get the measurements for the showers from you, and then I’m going to look for tile at the building supply. But I can come back to help tomorrow after school.”
The smile faded. “You don’t really need to, you know.”
“But I want to. And I will. Tomorrow night. How about you show me how to tile, and I’ll do one of the showers?”
He nodded. “Sure. That would be a big help.” He pulled a tape measure from his back pocket. “You got a paper and pen?”
“Just a minute,” she said, rummaging through her purse. She found a pen and the notepad she had purchased for jotting down information about the reno. “Shoot!”
Tom stepped into the walk-in shower, the tape measure rattling in his hands. “Forty inches.”
“Forty inches,” she repeated.
“By six feet.”
“By eight feet, but Gabe knows the ceiling height.”
“Got it,” Viv said, noting the height anyway.
“Now, you have to tile the floor and the walls in here. Maybe with all the same tile, but maybe with different kinds. Your dad might want a decorative inset on the wall, too, so give him a selection of tiles to choose from.”
Viv nodded, her pen poised over the paper. “What kind of tile should I look for?”
Tom shrugged. “There’s a lot to choose from. Ceramic, stone, porcelain, mosaic. There’s pebble, too, but Gabe doesn’t usually go for that.”
“Okay,” Viv said, scribbling. “Anything else?”
“Well, you’re going to have to order some thinset mortar and grout. Your dad will tell you how much to get.” He stepped out of the shower and looked over Viv’s shoulder as she wrote. She was very aware of his nearness.
“Grout,” she said, writing down the last item. She looked up into his eyes and smiled. “Done.”
“Come on. Let’s go do the other bathroom.” Viv followed him out of the master and down the hallway to the four-piece.
“Now, here the tub and shower are combined. You’ll only be tiling the wall above the tub.”
“I know that,” Viv said, rolling her eyes.
“I know you do, darling. Just mentioning it.” He pulled out the tape. “The depth is seventeen inches. Take that from your eight feet and you get . . .”
“Seventy-nine inches,” Viv said automatically. “That’s six feet, seven inches.”
“At simple math. I hang around first-graders all day.”
“Your dad was telling me that you might be giving it up.”
Viv paused to stare at Tom. “When did he tell you that?”
“Let’s see. I was talking to him on Sunday, after I got home. He wanted a progress report on the reno.”
“He’s wrong, you know. I’m not giving up teaching.”
Tom had been taking measurements while she spoke. “I didn’t think so, from the way you’ve talked. That’s five feet.”
“By thirty inches.”
Viv nodded as Tom climbed out of the tub.
“We don’t have to worry about the four-piece in the basement. We’re using a shower surround for that.”
“Good. So we’re all done here?”
“That’s it.” Tom clumped down the hallway in his work boots. Viv caught up to him in the ensuite, where he was wrestling with the box of broken linoleum.
“Say, Tom. I’m curious. What exactly did Daddy say to you about me quitting teaching?”
“As long as you’re here, pick up the other end, will you?”
“Sure.” She slung her purse over her shoulder and bent to pick up the end. The box was heavy and awkward with the loose linoleum. Tom backed out of the room first.
“He said your mom was about to offer you her shoe business in New York, which would make you a very rich young lady.”
“That’s true, but I don’t care about the money.” They trudged down the hallway with the box. “I’ve got everything I need, and the school board offers a good pension.”
Tom started backward down the stairs, the contents of the box shifting toward him. “Careful, now.” After a moment, he added, “He also said that it would give you a chance to get away from Toronto and start over again. Something about a busted romance?”
Viv grimaced. She wished her daddy hadn’t been so forthcoming with Tom; it was embarrassing. Tom was taciturn and tough. She assumed that he suffered through his broken romances without a whimper.
“It’s true I wouldn’t mind a fresh start somewhere. Toronto’s a great city, but who wouldn’t want a chance to live in New York?” The majority of the weight was on Tom, but Viv struggled to hold up her end. “Just between you and me, I’ve always loved fashion. It would be exciting to rub shoulders with some of the world’s great designers.”
Tom grunted as they navigated the bend in the staircase and continued down the steps to the front door. Now that the subject had been broached, Viv couldn’t seem to stop talking.
“The thing about teaching the early grades is that it’s so predictable. The curriculum never varies much, or the methodology. Plus, there’s so much politics in the school system. The idea of being the head of a prestigious company like Rouge is very tempting. Scary, too, but imagine being able to make all of the decisions yourself.”
They navigated the box through the door and out onto the porch.
“And I think I’d be okay at shoe design. I’ve got an artistic bent. That’s why I took up photography. Even my mother thinks my work is pretty good.” She kept silent about Frances Harvey seeing some of her portraits; that was still too incredible to share. And what if Ms. Harvey didn’t like her work? Best to keep quiet about it for now.
Out loud, she said, “No, the design aspect of the job doesn’t frighten me.”
They trundled over to the dumpster on the front lawn. Tom shifted the load up onto his shoulders and fired the box into the bin. He wiped his hands on his pants.
“But you’re not going to give up teaching and leave Toronto, are you?”
Viv shook her head. “No. I’d miss the kids too much. And my friends, and Daddy. And Toronto. Sure, I have sad memories leftover from Kyle and the break-up, but I’m moving on.”
“To the head-hunter. I remember.” Tom grinned, and there were glints of devilment in his eyes.
“Maybe,” Viv said with a grin of her own. “Drew seems like a nice man.”
Tom rested a hand on her shoulder. It felt comfortable there. “If not, there’re plenty more fish in the sea, darling. You’re young, pretty, and feisty, and you’ve got a heart of gold. You won’t have any trouble finding a good man to look after you.”
“Thanks, Tom,” Viv said, patting his hand. “Although a lot of women would take issue with being told they needed looking after.”
Tom removed his hand. “I’m kind of old-fashioned that way.”
Viv studied him in his worn, dirty clothes. Up close, she could see some white mixed in with the dark stubble on his cheeks and chin. He was a little battered by the years, perhaps, but confident and capable. Plus, there was humour and kindness in his eyes. She didn’t mind old-fashioned. Too bad he was old enough to be her father.
“You got any sons, Tom?”
“I do. One’s twenty-nine with a wife and two kids and another one on the way. The other is twenty-seven and single. Works as a fire fighter in B.C.” He winked. “He’ll be back someday for the farm. Might take a few years, though.”
“Nah, if he’s as good-looking as you, another woman will have snatched him up by then.”
Tom pretended to tip a non-existent hat to her, and Viv bowed.
“Besides, I’m lousy at choosing men. That’s why my friends are helping me. Drew is contestant number two, by the way.”
“I’d be careful about that. Ain’t no way anybody else can know what makes your heart beat faster, Viv.”
Viv shrugged. “I’ve been wrong before, you know.”
“Growing pains. You were too young. You’ll know better now.
“Thanks, I sure hope so. But I’ve got to run. I’ll see you tomorrow after school to tile the shower, all right? I promise.”
“See you then. Tell Gabe that the kitchen appliances are going to be delivered by the end of the week. That ought to help him keep his pants on.”
“Will do. I’ll pick some pretty tiles for the showers.”
“Okay, darling. See you.”
Viv checked her watch as she left, and realized that she had only six minutes before the streetcar was due. As she trotted for the stop, she felt pretty good about her love life. Tom was right; she was more mature now. With Julie and Sabrina weeding out the bad choices, she was bound to find the right man this time.
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