Happy Monday, my lovelies!
Apparently, we’re about to have a polar vortex impact us over the next few weeks. Oooooooooh. Ice and snow is on its way. Oh, my. And I don’t know about you guys, but I think the world needs love – lots and lots of love – and kindness. Here is my tiny contribution to more love and kindness. The Ferranti family at home. And Sophia’s being… Sophia.
The Dower House…
In the family living-kitchen space, Bronte and Rosie are enjoying mummy time with their babies. Tucked up in her stroller, three month old Mila is in a milk induced coma. Bronte lays a heavy-eyed Eve in her playpen with her blankie.
“Camomile tea?” Bronte asks her best friend and sister-in-law.
Since it’s winter the girls are wearing their usual house uniform of skinny jeans, worn white at the seams, and cashmere sweaters. Rosie’s sweater is fire engine red and Bronte’s is black. Rosie’s Uggs lie abandoned on the floor. She tucks her legs beneath her on the couch and accepts a polka dot mug. “Cheers,” she says. “Can’t wait for my first cup of coffee once Mila’s weaned. Alexander reckons it’s the camomile tea that has her sleeping through the night.”
Bronte makes herself comfortable in a fat velvet chair the color of blueberries. She lifts her socked feet up on the matching footstool. “Cheers,” she says, sipping her tea. “Could be, plus the fact she’s simply adorable and so laid back she’s horizontal. Of course, I’m her auntie so I’m probably biased. Eve is such a good baby, too. Nico reckons it’s because of all the love and attention she receives from the kids.”
Rosie’s inky hair is tied in a messy knot of glossy curls on top of her head. She grins wickedly at her best friend, who looks simply amazing with her ash blonde hair skimming her shoulders. “Six and a half years ago, we were foot loose and fancy free. You thought you’d never marry, never mind have a child. Now look at you, Mrs Ferranti. All loved-up with Nico and mama to four children.”
Bronte’s emerald eyes dance. “You can talk. Your mother is in seventh heaven with her, hint-hint, first grandchild.” Her eyes go sad as she whispers, “I so wish my mum and dad had lived to see theirs.”
Rosie’s bright brown eyes dim a little in heartfelt sympathy. “I miss them, too. With Christmas around the corner, it’s always hard at this time of year.” Then she makes a face. “The mother from hell is already dropping hints about grandchild number two.”
Bronte laughs. “I love your mother. She has no filter between her brain and her mouth.”
Rosie rolls her eyes. “Yeah, she’s a laugh a minute. I told her Alexander won’t be up to making more babies until his love muscle heals. Even though she’s in Cyprus, her shriek of horror nearly broke my cell phone.”
Bronte bites down hard on her trembling bottom lip. “How is the brave little soldier?”
“It’s been two weeks and the love muscle is still healing. My mother told him to dip it in neat TCP. You should’ve seen his face. Stoopid man.”
Bronte grins. “How are you coping with no sex?”
Rosie gives her big, big eyes, and purrs, “Who says we’re having no sex? Dontcha know Alexander Ludlow is nothing if not inventive?”
Bronte holds up her hand in mock surrender. “Okay. Okay. I do not want to know what my brother gets up to in bed.”
Rosie pouts. “You started it.”
The noise of children and a barking dog has them crane their necks to look out floor to ceiling windows into the garden and the kiddie play area built of smooth oak.
“How’s Jimmy Chew?” Rosie asks.
“A complete joy. Sophia’s his favorite human.”
“Hmm,” Rosie says, her eyes narrow as she watches her niece and nephews and the family’s Bichon Frise. “Bet I know why.”
Bronte follows her gaze. She goes utterly still. “That girl! She’s a little monkey.”
“Yup. Dunno where she gets her ruthless streak.”
“Her father,” Bronte says tartly. She shoves her feet into her ankle black Uggs, grabs her duck down jacket and heads out the door with Rosie hot on her heels.
Like her brothers, Sophia is dressed in jeans and a fleece beneath a hooded duck down jacket. On her blonde head sits a cream beanie with a huge fake fur pom-pom the color of ink. She sits on the swing with an open bag of chips in her hands.
“Sit!” she says to the wide-eyed pup bouncing at her feet.
Jimmy Chew’s butt instantly hits the ground.
Sophia gives Jimmy Chew a chip. “One for you. And one for me.”
Her twin’s face is fierce. “You’re not supposed to feed Jimmy Chew human food,” Luca says in a stern voice.
“Si!” nine year old Tonio says. “Papa will punish you.”
Unrepentant, Sophia sends them a black look. “MY dog. My food. Piss off.”
“Mama says if you use that kind of language again in this house, you’ll get a smacked bottom,” Luca reminds her.
“And you can shut your big fat mouth, too,” a naughty Sophia says. She makes a horrible face. Then tosses her blonde plait over her shoulder.
“SOPHIA FERRANTI!” Bronte bellows in a tone that makes Miss Sophia’s green eyes go wide. She shoves the bag of chips in her pocket.
The angry tone of his mistress has Jimmy Chew make a high-speed beeline for the safe haven of Tonio who lifts him in his arms.
“You’re in big trouble,” Luca hisses to his twin under his breath.
“Poopie doo, girly hair,” the twin from hell says, referring to a very sensitive subject for her brother—his glossy curls. For good measure, she juts her chin.
Bronte and Rosie eye Sophia and the pup in Tonio’s arms. Bronte bends to sniff Jimmy Chew’s muzzle. Her chin’s bathed in puppy kisses.
“Cheese and onion chips,” she says. Turning to her daughter she holds out her hand palm up and wiggles her fingers. “Gimme.”
The unblinking battle of wills between mother and daughter is short and sweet. Mama wins. “Go to your room. No TV. No tablet. You may read. Papa will deal with you.”
Head held high, Sophia marches into the house.
Bronte turns to Tonio, shakes the packet. “How much did he eat?”
“Only a couple.”
“We TOLD her she’d get into trouble, but she ignores us, mama,” Luca says. “She keeps saying Jimmy Chew is HER dog. But he belongs to everyone.”
Bronte nods, her mind racing. The time has come for her daughter to learn a lesson, and she’s just the mama to do it. “Take him in, it’s too cold out here. Keep him in the family room in case he has an upset tummy.”
Luca’s face goes white. “Do you think she’s made him sick?”
“Well, we won’t know until we know, will we?” she says tartly. “One of you should have come and got me immediately. Jimmy Chew is EVERYONE’S responsibility. Papa will speak to you when he comes home.”
Rosie nibbles on her top lip as two miserable looking little boys trudge into the house with a wide-eyed, alert and perfectly fine little dog. “Omigod. Their faces. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Bronte turns to her. “That girl will be the death of me. When she’s wilful and naughty, my hand itches to spank her bottom. But, that wouldn’t work with her. Nope. We need to hit her where it hurts.”
“Where’s that?” asks a Rosie who was always up for learning a new parenting technique from the Ferranti’s.
“In the heart.”
Later, Nico, still dressed for work in one of his fancy suits, stands before his three children. In his arms is a bright and breezy Jimmy Chew. The kids are washed, teeth brushed and ready for bed. Between her brothers, her chin on her chest, sits his daughter. Even when she’s in the wrong her brother’s protect her.
“I am wondering,” he begins in a soft voice, “if we are the right family for a little dog who has already lost an owner. It seems we cannot look after him properly.”
Three heads lift, their faces white with shock. Sophia’s bottom lip trembles. “We love him, papa.”
Nico’s dark brows lift. “Do you? It does not look like it to me. There is a reason we do not give human food to dogs. Their digestive system does not deal well with sugar or fats. If you love him, Sophia, why would you want to make him sick?”
Her emerald eyes huge in her pale face, Sophia shakes her head. “But, I don’t want to make him sick. I just… just…”
“I want him to love me,” she whispers as a fat tear tips over to run down her cheek.
“You think you can buy love? Do mama and I buy your love, Sophia?”
Eyes swimming, she shakes her head. “No, papa. You love me to the moon and stars and back again.”
Nico clears the huge lump in his throat. “Si.”
“So, what should we do with Jimmy Chew?” Bronte says from the doorway. In her arms is a drowsy baby Eve fresh from her bath. “I need to be able to trust my family to help me look after and care for him. Feeding him chips or cookies is not looking after him, is it?”
Three heads shake.
“I’m thinking that Jimmy Chew needs a family who will put his needs first and love him as he deserves to be loved. What do you think?”
Luca looks her right in the eye. “We love him, mama. We won’t ever let anyone give him human food. We promise!”
“Sophia?” Nico whispers.
His daughter takes a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I promise never to feed him snacks or treats again.”
Nico nods. “Very well. There are doggie treats, but we do not use them to buy his love. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, papa,” three soft voices chorus.
“Okay. It is time for bed.”
All three troop past their parents and up the stairs. The sound of bedroom doors closing has Nico give Bronte big eyes. “Dio mio, that was harsh, cara mia. I feel like crying myself.”
“Don’t waste your sympathy on her. You didn’t hear her telling the boys to piss off and inform Luca he has girly hair.”
Nico’s dark brows lift as he nuzzles a delirious Jimmy Chew. “Little monkey.”
Bronte moves into his personal space. She lifts up on her tip-toes to give his five-o’clock shadow a kiss. “She’s headstrong. She’s ruthless when she wants something, like someone else I know.”
Handsome face serious, Nico nods. “Si. She is Italian.”
Naughty Sophia! I can’t help but love her anyway.
‘Til Friday, when The Golddigger short story, SUKKI, goes live, be good.
Hugs and love,