Awakening Veronica(4)

By: Heather Rainier

Her fingers paused as she sorted through the photos and her eyes were drawn to another guest at that same wedding. A wizened fingertip, the skin soft and nearly translucent after close to a century of living, stroked the image of a tall, strong-looking man chatting with Grace. He was what her granddaughter Rebecca would call a sexy silver fox. It was only a one-dimensional image but Grandma Kate thought she saw the traces of a stalwart personality in his chiseled face and the set of his broad shoulders. She saw loneliness, too.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” she whispered to herself.

Chewing her lip for a second, she recalled being introduced to him. She’d wondered back then at the sense of “family” she’d gotten from him, with his easy smile and mannerly ways. She’d had that feeling before in the past and she’d learned to not ignore it. Talking Veronica into taking a little side trip with her to Divine was sounding like a better idea all the time.

“Ah, I remember. Sheriff Hank Stinson. You look protective. I’ll bet you’re the type who believes watching out for the ladies is the burden the world has laid on your shoulders. I wonder what you’d think of sweet, young things being bullied. You wouldn’t take kindly to it, I imagine.”

Kate recalled from previous conversations that Grace also knew a thing or two about being bullied.

She was a night owl like Kate, and she’d still be up this late. “I need to finalize those plans with Grace anyway.”

* * * *

Grace slid her arms into the long, azure-blue satin robe, fresh from her shower and feeling much more relaxed.

Ethan had sat in on the chat with her and she’d watched his consternation grow as Veronica had been berated by a “fan.” The verbal pummeling Veronica had received from that troll, complete with laughing and giggling emoticons meant to veil the sarcasm and aggressiveness of the comments, had hit a little too close to home for Grace.

As always, Ethan had an uncanny ability to read her emotions and had refused to allow her to internalize the stress after it was all over. He’d lifted a sleepy little Rose Marie into his arms before leading Grace up the stairs, and started the steam shower for her.

Tidying up her bedroom afterward, she smiled as Ethan’s deep voice filtered from Rose Marie’s bedroom next door, where he was reading their toddler a bedtime story. Rose Marie had been giving her fits lately and Grace felt blessed to have three very patient spouses to rely on for help with her.

She lifted the scrapbook she’d recently completed from her dresser and carried it downstairs before settling on the couch with Jack, who was talking on her cellphone. Ethan had convinced her to leave the phone downstairs so she could relax for a while. If she didn’t have her smartphone at hand, she’d be less likely to check her e-mail and Facebook status when she should be relaxing. Adam smiled and winked at her from where he sat in the big overstuffed chair, working on his laptop while listening to a football game on the television.

Jack said, “She just came back downstairs, Grandma Kate. I’ll tell Dad you said hello. Nice talking to you, too.” He grinned and handed her the cellphone.

“Grandma Kate! I was happy to see you made it to chat tonight.”

“Hey, sweets!” Kate’s energetic voice said from the other end. “I’m calling to make arrangements with you for my trip out there.”

“I have great news. Some friends are getting married and having their binding ceremony the weekend after you arrive. We’ve already added you to the guest list.”

“Wonderful! I’d love to be there. Who’s getting hitched this time?”

“Remember Lucy Owen? It’s her sister-in-law, Maizy, and her three men.”

“What wonderful news! I enjoy weddings nearly as much as I enjoy grandchildren! I have an engagement party to attend this Friday night, and then I’ll be arriving Saturday, if that works for you. I want to ask you about something. Feel free to tell me no, but I’m hoping for a little favor from you.”

Grace didn’t hesitate to answer. “Sure, Kate. Anything.” Kate wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important to her.

“I’m sure you noticed that ill-mannered person in the online chat room tonight?”

“Kind of hard not to, wasn’t it? And to be honest, what happened tonight is kind of mild in comparison with some of the bad behavior Veronica’s had to put up with online. She seems to have had more than her fair share of creepers and trolls.” Thinking about the chat made Grace tired. She admired Veronica’s ability to maintain her composure under pressure. She was on board if there was a way she could help.