Resolution in Bloom
Della tossed the newspaper aside and shoved him. “Answer it, you moron! Are you gonna just stand there like a gaping idiot or pick up the phone?” When Orlando just glared at her, she picked up the phone and spoke into it instead.
“What the bloody hell—?” Orlando hissed.
“Hey Aunt Pen,” Della said into the phone, sounding exactly like Aurora, right down to the accent and inflection of her voice. Maybe it was one of those post-death magic tricks she could manage. Orlando could only watch her, half-exasperated and half-awed. “Sorry I hung up a moment ago. I lost my grip on the phone.” She paused and frowned thoughtfully as Penny spoke. “Well, I’m glad that everything’s full speed ahead with the baby and all. I’m sure Dad would like to know.” Della turned and stared meaningfully at Orlando. “Oh here he is now! You should talk to him.”
Orlando narrowed his eyes at her, and she grinned. “Adelaide…” he began.
“All right, then Aunt Penny,” Della was saying. “I’ll talk to you later. But don’t be too hard on Dad now. He’s still a crippled old man. Love you, too.” She chuckled and took the phone away from her ear. She placed her hand on the receiving end and used her normal speaking voice. “Talk to her, Orlando. Or I will do it for you.”
“You are a meddling nuisance, Adelaide Henderson,” Orlando said in a low tone. “This is none of your concern. You should have just stayed out of it.”
“How the hell could I have stayed out of it when you’ve been moving at the speed of a slug?” Della demanded.
“Because I am an adult,” Orlando countered. “I’m not a bleeding child who needs his hand held. I don’t need you stepping in and waving your magic wand to make things all wonderful. I can handle this myself.”
With one hard look, Della set the receiver down with a sharp clack and walked up to him. “Fine. You want me to stay out of it, Orlando? I will.” She straightened her shoulders and, for a moment, Orlando felt scared and a little confused. There was some finality in her voice, a resolution that had his stomach falling somewhere to the vicinity of his knees. “I’m sorry for bothering you in the first place. You never have to see me again.”
That sapped the anger from him, for it was then he realized what was happening. She walked past him and he whirled around to stop her. Before he could speak a word, Della faded away, leaving her telltale scent behind to taunt him.
It was like losing her all over again. Why did it hurt so badly the second time around? He was slightly confused by the widening fissure in his heart, but when realization dawned, heavy and bleak, he placed a hand over his bleeding heart.
“What have I done?” Orlando whispered to the empty, lifeless room.
A voice, tinny but distinctive, came up from the phone and Orlando jumped. He remembered that Penny had been on hold for a while and picked up the phone. “Um, hello?” Orlando said thickly. “Penny?”
“Oh—Orlando! I had thought something had happened. Is everything all right?”
Orlando found himself staring at the spot where Della had been standing and shook his head. “No. Everything is not all right, Penny.” He sighed and raked his free hand through his thick brown hair. “I am sorry for not contacting you for so long. I…”
“No, no,” Penny disagreed. “You had a lot to work through, Orlando so I hardly blame you. Have you talked to Jacqueline?”
“No,” Orlando responded. “And I don’t intend to. As far as I am concerned, things are over between us. That’s the way it should be.” He paused, remembering what Della had been trying to tell him. It was now or never. If he didn’t ask, he would be forever in the dark. “Penny, do you think that…I mean, you and me…”
Penny sighed then, and Orlando knew what her answer was going to be even before she spoke aloud. “You know, Orlando, a few weeks ago, I would have been able to answer that with certainty. But now…”
“It’s all right, Penny,” Orlando assured her as he shifted and sat on the edge of his desk. “No pressure, remember? And honestly, if things don’t work out…in that way, you are still a part of my family.”
He could hear the relief and happiness in Penny’s voice when she thanked him. It eased the stretching of that gaping fracture, and Orlando came to another realization. Della had not been necessarily trying to get him to call Penny so that they could forge their romantic relationship despite the obvious presence of Cameron Byrne. She was trying to make sure that he didn’t lose an important part of his family. Because, no matter what they became, Orlando and Penny were still family to one another. And that was the most important thing.
“Look, it’s been forever since we’ve seen each other,” Orlando reminded her, with that thought in his head. “What do you say we have a nice family dinner on Sunday?”
“I would love that!” Penny exclaimed. “I haven’t seen the twins and Ariel in forever.” Then she hesitated and her tone became uneasy. “Would you mind it if Cameron came, too?”
He took a moment to test it out in his head. He found that he didn’t mind Cameron all that much. After all, he seemed to be making Penny happy in a way that he was not destined to. When he thought of it on those terms, it seemed no other way but right.
To Penny, he said, “All right. It’s fine, love. But if he flirts with Ariel, I’m getting out the shotgun that Nia bought me for Christmas.”