Victoria took a deep breath before tossing Andrew the baseball. She watched with satisfaction as his eyes widen and a crooked smile crossed his face. As always, his smile took her breath, and when his eyes locked with hers, she was unable to look away. Her heart beat faster and her mouth went dry. Andrew’s smile faded and his eyes narrowed. At that point, it was just the two of them. Everyone else in the room faded away. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears. Victoria knew her desire for him showed but was surprised to see a flickering response in his eyes. She was unable to breathe and for a moment, she thought he was going to reach for her. Then, he took a deep breath and the desire faded from his face.
"Thank you, Victoria," Andrew said gravely.
A sharp stab of disappointment ran through her but the spell was broken. He might desire her but he wasn’t going to act on it. She quickly averted her eyes and launched into the story about the player and getting his autograph. They were all impressed that she had actually met him, and the conversation became a rehashing of his career. Julie decided it was time for her kids to go to sleep so Victoria volunteered to help put them to bed. She felt the need to put some distance between her and Andrew.
Upstairs, she took Katie to her room. The five year old was tired but fighting sleep and she begged for a story. There was little Victoria could refuse Julie’s daughter. She loved all of the Riley children, but did admit to herself that Katie was her favorite. Named after her, Katherine Victoria was sweet, affectionate, and mischievous. Julie had put Michael to bed and stopped by Katie’s room. She smiled when she saw Victoria with Katie’s favorite storybook in her hand.
"Do you want me to read to her?" she asked from the doorway.
"No. I want to."
Julie nodded and headed back downstairs. Victoria picked up the book and began reading. It wasn’t long before Katie drifted off to sleep. Victoria carefully rose and covered her with the bedspread. She stood a moment by the bed fighting the longing for a child of her own. When she turned and headed for the door, she saw Phyllis leaning against it.
"Is she asleep?"
Victoria nodded and walked over to Phyllis. She linked her arm with the woman she considered a second mother. As a child, Victoria had spent as many hours in the Moore home as she had in her own, and she had a great deal of love and respect for this woman. Victoria closed the door softly behind her and headed for the stairs. Phyllis stopped her before she reached them.
"Tori, you should consider having children of your own."
Victoria closed her eyes momentarily against the pain her remark caused. Twice in a matter of days, someone had made that suggestion, and Victoria fought the longing each time. She smiled ironically. "I think it’s too late for me to marry and I can’t imagine raising a child on my own."
She looked at the older woman and saw that Phyllis was staring at her, searching for something.
"You’ve given up," Phyllis said softly.
Fear raced through Victoria. Surely, Phyllis didn’t know. She quickly gathered herself together. "What do you mean?"
"You’ve given up on Andrew, haven’t you?"
Victoria leaned back against the wall and sighed. "How did you know?"
"Oh, Tori. I’ve known you since you were five years old. I still remember the look on your face at your sixteenth birthday party when Andrew handed you his gift. It was like a light had suddenly been turned on inside you. You had always burned bright but that day, a fire ignited in you. It worried me at first but I should’ve known better. You were incredibly sensible underneath all that flamboyant exterior even then. You knew you were too young at the time and you were willing to wait. Only we both waited too long, didn’t we? I wasn’t prepared for Carolyn either."
Victoria watched Phyllis as she turned and looked down the stairway. For some reason, it helped to know that she had been watching out for her.
"I wish I could say I had loved her. Carolyn was very nice and a good daughter-in-law. She gave me two beautiful grandchildren but I couldn’t love her. You see, I wanted you for Andrew." She smiled a little sadly at Victoria who leaned over and hugged her. "Don’t give up on him, Tori. He’s coming around. I can see it."
"I don’t know, Phyllis. I don’t think I’m making any progress, and it hurts so much."
"I know it does, dear. I wish I could say that you will never hurt again, but we both know that’s not true. All I can say is that I think you are just what he needs. I believe someday he’ll realize that."