Monday, December 26, 2011

Ch 94: The best laid plans



As it is universally known, that the best laid plans often go awry, and so were the summer plans Victor had made. 

An explosive case involving a prominent New Jersey businessman and the defrauding of hundreds of investors was suddenly thrown in Victor’s face. Although he wasn’t to be first chair on this case—the semi- incompetent nephew of the law firm’s founder would be--, his expertise was vastly needed and unfortunately, it would take far more time than he liked. 

So much for summer plans!  Jocelyn’s party would have to be postponed until the case was over. 
Victor was not happy. He went to the garden to break the news to Violet. The next day he was to go into the city for he didn’t know how long. He didn’t even know if he would have a stray weekend to come back. No, he was not at all happy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ch 93: Mama substitute


            
“Victor, have you completely lost your marbles?” Violet said.

“No,” he said, chuckling. “Just partially.” 

“Mm-hmm,” she said just as the Ferris wheel stopped and the operator went to open the latch to let them out.

Victor held out a fifty dollar bill and gave a little nod and the man, his eyes popping, closed it up again, snatched the money and sent them back up.

“What in the world…”

“I like it up here. Don’t you? I thought we'd ride some more.”

“Uh…okay,” she said, watching him curiously. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Grand,” he replied, looking at the sky waiting for the first star to show itself.

“So, are you going to explain or am I supposed to guess?”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ch 92: Summer plans


“It’s great to finally meet the man everyone’s been talking about,” Jocelyn said. “I do have a request of you.” 

“Do you?” Victor said, surprised and a bit put off. 

“What? Already?” Violet shrieked.

“Perhaps Violet has not told you, I’m not dating,” Victor said.

“I already explained that, Victor,” Violet said, curiously staring at her friend.

“Oh, no, it’s not that, although, I must admit, I wouldn’t mind, but I see quite clearly, you're taken."
"Jocelyn!" Violet hissed.

"Victor, I’ll have anyone…anyone just like you, I mean. Extremely handsome, tall, well built, rich would be nice, but not a deal-breaker and an all-round great guy, which I’ve heard tell and can see for myself now you are all of those things. I’ll take a brother or cousin or even an uncle. Beggars can’t be choosers,” Jocelyn boldly said.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ch 91: Pleasing Cleopatra

            

“Miss Violet! Miss Jocelyn!”

They both turned in time to be fiercely hugged about the knees.

“Hi, Heather,” Violet said.

“Heather, what happened to your beautiful, long hair?” Jocelyn shrieked. “It’s all gone!”

“Oh, how cute!” Violet said. “You look like Tinker Belle, except you have no wings.”

“Dat’s what Gramma said, but it’s okay. Mommy says it’ll grow back and den we can cut it off again,” Heather said.

“But why did you cut it in the first place?” Jocelyn asked, just as Diane showed up with her own pixie haircut. “Girl, what have you done to yourself and this poor child?”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter 90: Something’s gotta give

                                   
“I cannot believe you did this,” Violet said, as she snapped Carmencita into her car seat and gave her one final kiss.

“I promised them a fun day and I thought they’d like the carnival. My kids did,” Victor said, as he put Peter into his car seat and buckled him securely in.

“I mean you buying this van,” Violet said, closing the door with a wave to all the kids.

“They don’t all fit into my other cars, so…”

“So, you had to buy this?” she said, incredulous. “They aren’t even your kids.”

“Shhh! They don’t know that!” he said.

She laughed. “You are a strange, funny man, Victor Romanoff.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chapter 89: For a good cause


“You’re all hungry, arencha?” Judy asked her boyfriends, as she picked up a tray of half burnt cookies. “You should buy some of this stuff.  It’s really yummy. All for a good cause, you know, my dad’s fire company. You don’t want your house to burn up, do you?”

The boys shook their head in earnest sycophant fashion and pulled their wallets out of back pockets.

“You should get some to bring home too,” Judy added, packaging some things for each of them.

Within a few minutes, every soggy fruit bar, crumbly cookie, crispy rice square and mediocre cupcake was either eaten on the spot or wrapped up and taken away. Judy waved them all off and shouted, “I’ll catch up with you guys soon.” 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapter 88: Tummy aches and sleepy toddlers


Violet tried to steady her heart, but soon gave it up as a bad job. What would be the use of it, after all? She spun around to see Victor holding Peter who looked sickly and very sad.  

“Victor,” she said staring at him hungrily. She had indeed missed him something dreadful, but before she could tell him that, her maternal instincts stepped in. “Peter, how do you feel, honey?”

“Not good,” he whined, laying his head on Victor’s shoulder.

“Oh, I have some medicine that should make you feel better.” Violet went to her purse and came back rummaging through it.

Peter shook his head and clung fiercely to Victor.

“Come on, Buddy,” Victor soothingly said. “If Violet says it’ll make you feel better, you should take it.”

“Pills are bad…make you die and go to heaven, like Mommy did,” Peter grumbled.

Victor and Violet exchanged horrified looks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chapter 87: Angels at the carnival


John Yearly was nothing short of a nuisance and he made Violet feel most uncomfortable. Too bad he was too dense to figure it out and Violet was too polite to tell him this. Granted, she had been so busy with a steady stream of people snatching away cookies and cupcakes by the dozen that she barely had a moment to think about the hideous man, but she couldn't turn around without him being right there. She could feel his eyes glued to her. He simply gave her the heebie-jeebies and it didn’t even matter that she was modestly dressed. She knew he was undressing her with his eyes, the creep!

Oh, what she’d give to be rid of him for more than a couple of hours! Her only conciliation, it was Sunday, the last day for the carnival and the last day to have John on her tail.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chapter 86: Dunk tanks and cookies


                        
It was Wednesday, the day the littlest angel kids came to the garden and surprisingly, Violet couldn’t drum up a bit of the usual happiness she felt on this day. She tried, oh, she did try, but at every turn her spirits sunk lower.

“Miss Violet? Why isn’t Victor here?” Peter asked as he tugged on her sweater.

She went down on her knees and took his tiny hands in hers. “I’m sorry, Sweetie. He’s probably too busy to come. He has very important work in the city,” she told him forcing a smile onto her face. The smile was in the hope of easing the blow, but it didn’t help. 

Peter’s large blue eyes filled with tears and Violet fought the desire to join him in a good cry, her own feelings being equally desolate. She hugged him and tried to soothe both him and herself. That didn’t help either.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapter 85: No more waiting


 
“This is ridiculous!” Victor roared as he paced in front of the desk. “How long do you expect me to sit back and wait?”

“As long as it takes,” Freddy said, calmly. He sat back in his chair watching Victor stomp left to right and back to left, just like he would at a tennis match.

“Why?”

“Because Violet has to be the one to come to you. It won’t work any other way. Trust me on this. I know my sister,” Freddy replied.

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t quite believe you do,” Victor said. “Tell me how she’s supposed to be in love with me if she no longer wants to see me? How does that make any sense?”

Freddy shook his head and sighed. “I never said Violet makes much sense. Victor, you must be familiar with her temperament by now,” he said, soothingly.  “She’s fiercely loyal to Richard and it doesn’t matter that he’s been dead for almost a year.  She sees falling for you as a base betrayal of his memory.”

“So, there is no hope as I’ve been saying all along.”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You didn’t have to,” Victor said, dropping into the chair in front of the desk. “I’ve been waiting for over a decade for her and now you’re saying…”

“A decade?” Freddy said. “What the hell are you talking about? You’ve only known Violet a few months. You mean waiting to find someone after your divorce?”

“No, I’ve been waiting specifically for Violet. Only Violet! From the moment I saw her I wanted her,” Victor said, clenching his jaw and staring at his feet.

Freddy gaped. “And that was ten years ago?”

“Yes, at a little league game,” Victor said, drifting off in his head to that fateful moment in time. “ I came up from the city to see Simon and Ronny play. Violet was there sneezing her head off. She had a blanket around her and a box of tissues in her hands. She was cheering for every kid that went up to bat, even my kids. She was beautiful, amazing and I fell in love then and there.”

“But she was married then. You had to know that,” Freddy said, astounded. “Richie never missed a game.”

“Yeah, he was there. I saw him, I spoke to him. So what?” Victor said defiantly.  “You’ve never seen the perfect woman and said to yourself  "she’s the one" and it didn't matter who she was with?”

“Yeah, once, but Laurie wasn’t married and she didn’t have kids. She didn’t even have a boyfriend,” Freddy said, looking askance at his friend.

“Well, aren’t you the pillar of virtue!” Victor snapped. “Why are you looking at me like that? It’s not like I killed Richard to get her.  If I had, it was a big waste of time!”

“No, but I suppose you did wish him dead at some point,” Freddy muttered. “Richie had your perfect girl, after all.”

“No, I didn’t,” Victor huffed. “I knew how much they loved each other. Anyone with eyes could see it. I just…I just wished the same for me someday. I envied him. I admit it! But I never wished him dead. Violet half died with him. You said it yourself! Think I wanted that for her? Think I wanted her grieving for the love of her life? Never! I’d sooner kill myself than wish that on her. I‘d be better off doing that than waiting around for something that will never happen.”

With that said, Victor stormed out of the office, got into his car and drove away.   

Three weeks! It had been three weeks since Violet banished him from her life. She hadn’t called, hadn’t even glanced his way and Freddy thought…what did he think? That this is how Victor was to gain her heart? By staying away? What madness was this?

Now he was reduced to being little more than a stalker, hoping, praying for a glimpse of Violet at the store, the post office, the bank and for what conceivable purpose? It’s not like she ever saw him.  She never noticed anything anymore. She was back to being a ghost of her former self, merely walking through life, but not really living it . Déjà vu all over again.  This is where he came in. He was back to square one yet again!

No! Victor had had quite enough of this. If Violet didn’t want him, then there was nothing he could do about it. He would leave Catalpa Valley.

When-- or if-- he ever came back was anyone’s guess.
                                                                         * * * * * *
“I don’t suppose we’ll see you at the Fireman’s carnival this year, Violet?”

How many times had Violet heard that same question this week? It started at church two weeks ago  and now every time someone she knew bumped into her around town they all asked the same stupid question.  She’d always give the same answer which, of course, led to astonishment followed by more questions. Why couldn’t people leave her alone?

“Yes, I’ll be there. I’ve run the baked goods booth each and every year since forever, you know,” Violet replied, trying not to sound as she felt, annoyed and pestered.

“Oh, we thought surely, after Rich… well, we didn’t think you’d want to anymore,” Mrs. Hiller said, placing her groceries on the conveyor belt.

“Richard wasn’t the only fire fighter in Catalpa Valley. The fundraiser benefits the entire town,” Violet said, pretending to be engrossed by a fluff magazine with the picture of Angelina Jolie holding one her dozen or so adopted children on the cover.

“Well, I’ll look forward to buying at least one of your Amish friendship breads. Will you be making them with blueberries this year? They are my favorite!” Mrs. Hiller said.

“I’ll try, Mrs. Hiller,” Violet said,  flipping the page.

“I hear you’re dating again. How nice,” Mrs. Hiller said, a snide look on her face.

“You have been misinformed,” Violet said, her jaw clenched.

“Oh? Well, then are you suing someone? Maybe the fire company for wrongful death. I hear you’re frequently seen with that new big city lawyer. I forgot his name,” she said.

“Victor Romanoff,” the cashier volunteered. “He’s gorgeous, but I heard he’s left town though, so… that’s twenty-three sixteen, Mrs. Hiller. So, if he’s dating anyone, it isn’t anyone around here.”

“Is he? I wonder why?” Mrs. Hiller said, casting a sideways glance at Violet as she handed the cashier a few bills and waited for the change.. “Perhaps, small town folk aren’t to his taste after all.”

Seething within, Violet slipped the magazine back into its rack as she waited for the insufferable woman to move out of the way, so she could pay for her own groceries and just go home. She had tons of baking to do before the canival on Saturday and she was resolved to not put even one blueberry in her Amish friendship bread. To hell with friendship!

She had just placed all her groceries into the car and closed the door when she heard her name shouted across the parking lot.  “Please, no, not again,” she muttered. She ignored it and hopped into the car. She had the car in reverse when she heard a tapping at the passenger side window.

“Miss Violet?” Karen said, both she and baby Missy beaming at her through the window.

“Oh my goodness!” Violet mumbled. She quickly turned the car off and jumped out.  She hugged and kissed them both. “Oh, how I’ve missed you both!”

“We missed you, too,” Karen said. “Missy especially misses Victor.”

Violet’s smiled faltered at the mention of Victor, but covered up by stealing the baby and hugging her. “Missy has grown so much. Oh, it’s so good to see you both. Is she walking yet?”

“Not really but she does pull herself up to stand. I’m surprised Victor’s not with you. You were almost inseparable. Where is he? Working late?”

“Uh…I don’t know,” Violet said.  “How is Wally? Have you been able to talk to him much? I’m so worried he’ll be deployed someday.”

Karen smiled. “We talk all the time and so far so good. He’s doing so great with his medics training, that I’m sure he will be needed somewhere. Victor was so good to give us those prepaid phones and the laptop and Skype, too. I wish we could see him again to thank him and to tell him how well Wally’s doing. Do you think he’ll be at the fireman’s carnival on Saturday? Almost everyone in town will be.”

“I…I couldn’t say,” Violet said, giving Missy one final cuddle and a kiss and then handing her back to her mother. “Well, I really should be going. It was so nice to see you, Karen. Come by the baked goods booth. I’ll be there and I’ll make sure to save a cookie for Missy.”

“Okay, give Victor a big hug and kiss for us!” Karen said waving Missy’s tiny hand.

Violet quickly left and wished to high heaven she didn’t feel like crying every time someone mentioned Victor.

“It wouldn’t happen if you would just call him,”  Heidi whispered in her ear. “I’m sure he misses you as much as you miss him.”

“I don’t miss him!” Violet shouted.

“Lying to yourself doesn’t make it untrue,” Heidi replied. “You eventually have to face  the truth and yourself.”

“Not if I can help it,” Violet muttered, determined to keep herself busy, too busy to think of anything other than the correct oven temperature, measuring, blending and mixing various ingredients and baking them into heavenly goodies. She went into the house with her arms full of baking supplies and then got to baking. It was going to be a long night.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chapter 84: Don't know Jack by Glory Lennon


Freddy shook his head. “No, that can’t be it. You must have done something to upset her. Think!”

Problem was Victor could barely sit up let alone think. His head ached something fierce and he thought he might hurl at any moment. He switched the icepack he held to the back of his neck from his forehead and glowered across the coffee table at the only person he could count on to help him win Violet back. He just wasn’t in the mood for an interrogation.

“I already told you ten times. I invaded her space and it freaked her out, but it doesn’t make sense. I’d been that close before. Gees, I even kissed her a couple of times, so…”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chapter 83: Something's wrong


“What’s happened?” Laurie anxiously whispered. “She’s back to being a zombie. She was so happy these past few months. Something's wrong.”

Freddy stared across the aisle at the next pew where Violet sat all alone staring into space and not singing along with the congregation. That was odd in itself, but she came in late, as well, hadn’t said hello to anyone--not even Freddy's gang-- nor smiled once. She looked as miserable and forlorn as she had last summer when Richard died.

“She and Victor must’ve had a falling out or quarreled or something?” Freddy said, turning to gaze at his wife. “You think they broke up?”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chapter 82: Realization

“Are you certain you’re awake enough to drive?” Violet asked.

He laughed. “I’m quite awake now, and starved. You hungry? I could really eat,” he said, starting the truck and heading out. “Want to grab something at the diner?”

“A bit late to be eating, don’t you think? Besides, every place is closed now. We’re not in the city that never sleeps, you know.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chapter 81: Peaceful, easy feeling


“I’ve never seen so many stars in my life,” Victor said.

“Me too,” Violet said. “It’s particularly dark tonight, isn’t it? I guess they just pop out extra when it’s so dark. It’s amazing.”

“Know what this reminds me of?” Victor said, still gazing up at the sky.

“Um…camping out at the Grand Canyon? It must have been like this there…better even!”

“It was nice, yes, and I guess what I’m thinking is better suited for out west but, do you remember that old Eagles song about sleeping in the desert?”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chapter 80: Star light, star bright

“What did you call this one? Buttercup?” Victor asked, holding up a bright yellow flower.

“No, silly. That’s a Coriopsis. This is a buttercup,” she said plucking another almost identical flower--at least to Victor--and giving it to him.

“Hmm,” he said looking from one to the other. “Nope, not gonna get these straight any time soon.”

Violet laughed. “Well, as you are not in charge of any gardens you don’t have to.”

“True. I think I like this Cory thing best. It’s very cheery I think. I’d like some in my garden.”

“I think you’re right. It is cheery,” she said placing the flowers they collected into the empty potato salad container. Victor had rinsed it out in the stream and filled it with fresh water. “I can plant some in the garden of your Manor home along with many other things. It’ll be fun picking stuff out for you, but of course, you’ll have to approve them first, Milord.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chapter 79: Picking wildflowers

 Violet gaped at Victor and blinked several times. The image of Richard superimposed itself on Victor for a split second then went back to normal. Had she imagined it?


“Violet? Are you all right?” Victor asked, his hand still held out to her.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” she said placing her hand in his and standing up. “I always loved picking wildflowers.”

She suddenly blushed. When Richard used to suggest picking wildflowers, he never actually meant picking wildflowers. Violet’s memory went back to the very first time she and Richard…

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chapter 78: Lord of the Manor



Violet suddenly gasped. “Victor, do you think, Mr. Kramer thinks we’re…married?” she asked anxiously.

“Why would you say that?” Victor said.

“Because he said, “your new man will finally buy Somerset Hill for you”. To me that says he thinks we’re married,” she said.

“No… you think?” Victor said skeptically. “Even if he does, is that a problem?” 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapter 77: Morris Kramer

“You stay here and I’ll be right back.” 

Victor ran to the truck and was back with a thick multicolored blanket, a large wicker picnic basket and a bottle of strawberry wine. It was deja vu all over again, Violet thought, a shaky feeling coming over her. 

Victor spread out the blanket, fixing the corners down just right and he placed the basket and the chilled bottle of wine in the center. Then he knelt down and extended his hand to her, a smile on his handsome face. Violet saw Victor do it all, and yet this image merged so well with the one in her mind’s eye, the one of Richard doing the same.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chapter 76: Somerset Hill


“This is Somerset Hill,” Violet stated breathlessly. “Stop here. This is the spot. This is it!” 

Obediently, Victor pulled over to the side of the road. So intent in gazing at the field before them, Violet didn’t notice him coming  to her side and opening her door until he unbuckled her seat belt. She then broke out of her trance and smiled at him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

“Thank you, Victor,” she whispered.

“Uh…you’re welcome, but why are you thanking me?” he asked.

“I didn’t …I couldn’t come last year,” she said releasing him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chapter 75: Surprises and promises


“We’re going in that?” Violet said pointing to Victor’s pickup truck.

“Yes, we’ll need it where we’re going. Is that a problem?” he asked opening the door for her.

“Well, yeah, it’s huge! I’ll need a ladder to get in and a parachute to get back out,” she grumbled.

He burst out laughing. “You crack me up.” He put his hands around her waist and lifted her easily into the truck.


She gasped. “You’d think I only weighed two pounds,” she said, astonished.

“You don’t weigh much more than that,” he assured.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chapter 74: Land for sale



Just as Victor pulled into Violet’s driveway, his cell phone rang. He frowned at the unfamiliar number before answering it.

“Victor Romanoff,” he said.

“You called about some land for sale?” a gruff voice sounded in his ear.

“Yes, I did. Is this Morris Kramer?”

“Who gave you this number?” he suspiciously said, ignoring the question.

“I truly couldn’t say,” Victor said, slightly taken aback. “I found your number on my desk. Someone who knows I’m interested in purchasing land must have dropped it off at my office.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chapter 73: The mysterious note


Victor came out of his bathroom rubbing a towel on his hair when he spotted it. He walked over to the nightstand and picked up the slightly crumbled piece of paper.

“What the heck?” he mumbled. “Hand for sole?”

“Land! Land for sale, you idiot!” Richard shouted at him.

“Hmm…land for sale… Krane…. Is that a five or a three?”

“A three. Can’t you read? And that says Kramer,” Richard said, totally annoyed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter 72: New plans


“I need a hug real bad,” Victor said when Violet opened the door to him. To his amazement she walked into his arms and wrapped her own around his middle. He held her close and for several minutes they just stood there. 

“It stinks,” she mumbled into his chest.

“I know. You do your best as parents,” he said. “You hope your kids grow to be loving, kind, trustworthy, intelligent and also self-reliant and independent. You hope they’ll make good choices in life and they repay you by…”

“By growing up and not needing you anymore,” she finished for him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ch 71: Great opportunities and lonely summers


“Hey, Dad,” a familiar voice came through the phone.

“Ronnie! Hey, how are you?” Victor said, as he turned to the clock on his nightstand. Kind of early for a phone call. What, he wondered, could be wrong?

“I’m good. How are you?” Ronnie said.

“Good. What’s up? You’re coming home soon, right?” Victor said. There was a pause and a bad feeling settled in the pit of his stomach.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ch70: Sad stories


 Violet snatched her eyes away from Victor just in time to see two and a half year old Carmencita putting the plastic trowel to her mouth. 

She gasped and pulled it away saying, “No, Carmencita. That’s yucky.”

Her sister, Maria, who was busy filling pots with soil, laughed. “She don’t understand you. She only knows Spanish,” she said.

“Oh, well, then, um…no hagas eso. Es malo,” Violet said, wrinkling her nose at the baby and shaking her head to show displeasure. The baby smiled and put the trowel down.

Maria gaped. “Wow, you speak Spanish!”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chapter 69: The Littlest Angels

“Oh, my God,” Violet mumbled, a pack of seeds in one hand and a trowel in the other.

“My, he does look rather God-like, doesn’t he?” Flora Trenton said as they both watched Victor approach and start talking with Walter Bettencort. He was dressed most unlike his usual manner. He wore snug jeans and a cambric shirt. There was no telling the difference between him and the Marlboro man, except his lack of a cigarette, a horse and a cowboy hat.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ch 68: Sweet dreams and waterfalls



“You know, I’d like these pictures better if you gave a full narrative,” Violet said.

“What does that mean exactly, a full narrative?” Victor asked. “I’m telling you about them. What more could you want?”

“I want to know what you and the boys were saying during every shot,” she said. “I want to know what was going on, how you were feeling, what joke they told you to get that smile on your face, the air temperature, the number of people around…Everything!  That way I can almost imagine myself there with you.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ch 67: Listen to your inner voice


“I’ve got something for you,” Victor said as he dried and stored the last of the dinner dishes within the cupboard.

“Victor, what did I tell you about presents?” Violet chided.


“Ah, yes, well, this isn’t a present, not for you anyway. So, let me rephrase that. I want to show you something I just received from my son,” he said taking a DVD out of the pocket of his jacket which hung on the back of a chair.

“You want to show me music?”

“Well, it is set to music. Ronnie always makes a major production out of these things, but, no, it’s pictures.”

“Pictures of what?”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ch 66: Returning the favor


Victor got as far as closing over the laptop before the phone rang…again. 

“Victor, Mrs. Kendal for you. She sounds frantic for a change,” Ella said rolling her eyes.

He let out a muffled curse before he snapped up the receiver and put it to his ear. “Hello, Carla, how may I help you? Carla…Carla! Calm down…no, it won’t come to that…Carla, do yourself a favor and stop watching Court-TV. Those are extreme cases. No, you are not going to prison…yes, I can guarantee it.” 

He glanced at his watch and nearly groaned aloud as he listened to the drama queen go on and on in near hysterics. He needed to leave. He had a nagging feeling Violet needed him.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ch 65: Breaking the news


“Victor, pinch me,” Violet said.

“Excuse me?” Victor replied pausing half way through buckling up to stare at her.

“This must be a dream. I’m only dreaming and what I thought just happened really didn’t. Right?” she said.

“No, my love, you are really and truly the new director of the outdoor children’s garden at Weston Botanical,” he said chuckling and starting the car.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ch 64: The perfect job


While Violet thoroughly enjoyed her time with Garret—he was such a wealth of knowledge and he seemed thoroughly impressed by hers as well!—within an hour she had started to feel guilty about being away from Victor. He did bring her to the Weston Botanical gardens, after all, to keep him from being bored. And here she had pretty much abandoned him! She felt horrible.

“As you can see it takes several months to get the mums to…” Garret explained showing her what they were already working on in early spring in preparation for the autumn displays.

“Garret, forgive me, but I really should get back to Victor,” she anxiously interrupted him.

“Who?” Garret asked, pushing his glasses up his nose while turning away from the metal frame pyramid on which thousands of mums were being held in place.

“Victor… Victor Romanoff. The man who introduced us,” she said smiling indulgently. The poor man knew every single detail about horticulture and every inch of Weston, but he obviously struggled to do half as much with people. It was all he could do to remember the names of those who funded his baby, the gardens at Weston.

“Ah, yes…yes, we should go then. Pity, I wanted to show you the poinsettias for the Christmas displays, but another time, surely,” he said allowing her to exit ahead of him through the “Employees only” door from the off-limits green houses.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you showing me all of these wonders! I’d give anything to be able to follow you around for just one day. I’d learn so much from you,” she gushed.

“Well, we could use a few more volunteers to help with the spring planting. They help put together the seasonal flower borders. I’m sure you’d be good at that. You at least know an aster from a zinnia!” he chuckled. “Where did you say you worked? I’ve never heard of the Mio Caro. Is it a very large nursery? Is it near here? We might be willing to work with them and use their services for plants if…”

“Oh, no! Mio Caro is not a plant nursery. It’s a daycare center…for children,” she said, just barely able to resist a giggle.

“Indeed,” he said somewhat bewildered. “Children, you say? How odd!”

“This guy obviously doesn’t understand why anyone would want to nurture kids when there are plants to fondle,” Richard grumbled.

Heidi giggled and poked him playfully in the side. “It does take all kinds, Richard,” she said.

Violet noticed how uncomfortable Garret became with each step further into the fray of party-goers. She managed to keep him from jumping out of his skin merely by distracting him with questions about this plant or another until she was fortunate enough to spot Victor.

“Oh, there he is,” she said, waving happily at him.

“Who?” Garret asked as he plucked a pair of clippers out of a pocket and snipped a broken twig off a Scotch Broom.

“Victor Romanoff,” she said smiling brightly. Victor beamed when he spotted her. He spoke briefly to the man beside him then headed in her direction accompanied by the rotund man. He was very nearly Victor’s considerable height, but his bulk made him appear even larger.

“There you are, Sweetheart,” Victor said, brushing a kiss on Violet’s cheek and making her heart skip a beat.

“I wish I never told him to do that,” Richard huffed. “He’s deliberately taking every opportunity to kiss her.”

“Oh, hush. There’s no harm in it,” Heidi insisted.

“Says you,” he mumbled.

“I thought you said you were going to stop haunting her and instead become a help to her, a spirit guide instead of a ghost, remember?” Heidi snapped.

“Yeah, I am! Victor’s gonna ruin everything if he pushes her too soon. She’s not ready for all that,” Richard insisted.

Heidi gave him a stern look. “Richard, your jealousy knows no bounds, does it?”

 “It’s got nothing to do with that. I’m serious, Heidi. Violet’s not gonna jump into bed with him just like that,” he said snapping his fingers.

“And how many times do I have to tell you Victor does not only want a roll in the hay! He loves her and wants to marry her. He’s in this for the long haul. He would do anything for her,” Heidi huffed.

“I know that. But he’s doing it all wrong! It has to be subtle and he’s being anything but subtle tonight.” Richard countered.

“I’m sorry we took so long, Victor, but Garret was showing me so many amazing behind the scenes stuff it was just too…”

“Too wonderful to pass up the opportunity. I know, my love. Don’t worry. We both know how much you love flowers and now Garret does too. You’ve found a plant lover after your own heart, haven’t you, Garret?” Victor said, snaking a possessive arm around Violet’s waist.

Heidi frowned at Violet whose face wore an expression of unease and bewilderment as she stared up at Victor. She was stiff in stance too, as if afraid or nervous of Victor's proximity.“Perhaps you’re right. You must tell him, Richard, before he does something he’ll regret,” she whispered anxiously.

“I have? Who’s that?” Garret said, slipping the clippers back into his pocket.

The rotund man shook his head, exasperated. “Garret, my good man, your lovely companion, of course,” he said, smiling at Violet as if she were a favorite niece.

“My lovely what?” Garret asked, totally bemused.

“Violet, this is Walter Bettencort. He’s the director of Weston Botanical,” Victor said, wisely ignoring the absent-minded Garret whose attention drifted to a nearby cluster of calla lilies where he bent over to snip off a spent flower.

“Ms. Bennett, Victor has told me so much about you, I feel I almost know you,” Walter said, grasping her hand with both of his beefy ones.

“Uh, you do?” she said, her eyes wide as she searched Victor’s face for some clue. Victor, to her astonishment was squeezing her to him as if he owned her. And why in heaven’s name was he calling her sweetheart and my love again? Was Silvia near by? She glanced around her and sure enough, Silvia was staring daggers at her from across the way. That explained that!

“Yes, he has,” Walter spoke heartily. “You have quite a thing for plants for one thing and you obviously know how to handle Mr. Plant guy over there. That’s two points in your favor. Garret, leave those plants alone and come join us. This concerns you.”

“Two points?” she mumbled, utterly confused.

“Yes?” Garret said coming back to them as he slipped the clippers once again into his pocket.

“Garret, what say you about the abilities of this fine young lady?” Walter said, placing his arm around the squirrelly man.

“Abilities?” he repeated, pushing his glasses up his nose.

“Horticulturally speaking of course,” Walter said, before whispering to the other two. “It’s the only thing he relates to, after all.”

“Oh, Ms. Bennett has a wide knowledge of plants. Far better than I’ve encountered in a very long time. She has a thirst for knowledge and a keen understanding as well of the subtle differences in cultivars,” Garret said, suddenly showing interest. “I think she would greatly benefit both herself and the garden by volunteering. We’ll be planting the spring beds next week and…”

“Come now, Garret, I was thinking a bit more than just having her plant a few annuals,” Walter said with a jovial laugh.

“There are perennials, too,” Garret said defensively.

Walter rolled his eyes. “Yes, of course, but what I’m saying is I think Ms. Bennett would make a wonderful assistant for you.”

“Assistant?” Violet gasped, looking from Walter’s indulgent face to Garret’s bemused one and finally to Victor’s beaming one.

“Assistant?” Garret repeated, his interest now profound. “Oh, that would be good.”

“Yes, I believe you would benefit from having someone personable and knowledgeable to intervene between you and the people you should be talking to, Garret,” Walter said in a grumpy sort of voice. “And that would leave you to deal with the plants, which you can relate to…probably because they don’t talk back.”

“That would be greatly appreciated,” Garret said, looking relieved.

“Yes, I thought so. Plus, we need someone to take over the children’s outdoor garden. Agnes Mills was our director for that project, but she won’t be able to continue in that position. She suffered a stroke over the holidays and though she has recovered rather well she has chosen to retire and spend more time with her children and grand kids.”

“Oh, what a shame for Weston, but I would do the same. Family should come first,” Violet said.

 “Well, she was a wonderful member of our staff for over twenty-two years and will be sorely missed, but I do believe you would more than fill her shoes,” Walter said. “And since you have great skills with kids, you, Ms. Bennett, make the perfect candidate for the position.”

“How do you know…” she started to say before she was interrupted.

“Well, Ms. Bennett, I must confess,” Walter said, looking slightly sheepish. “I had heard of you before Victor. I believe you may know my granddaughter who speaks rather highly of her favorite person at Mio Caro Bambino. Emma?”

Violet blinked stupidly for a few seconds. “Emma Schwartz is your granddaughter?”

“Indeed she is. Apple of my eye,” he said proudly. “What do you say, Ms. Bennett?”

“Oh, Emma is a darling. I adore her,” Violet said, thinking of the little girl with freckles across her chubby cheeks and eyes the same pale blue as her grandfather.

Walter and Victor laughed. “No, I mean about the job offer. Will you join our family at Weston?”

She blinked a few more times. “You mean you’re serious?” she squeaked.

“We’re in need of someone exactly like you, Ms. Bennett. I couldn’t find someone more perfect if given a month to look. Actually, I’ve had three months with no luck, but with schools scheduling their spring field trips in a few weeks, we’re now a tad desperate. Please, Ms. Bennett, say you will consider it. Emma won’t like me stealing you away from Mio Caro, but she can always come here to see you.”

She gaped, her eyes as large as the hydrangea blooms beside them. “Really?” she said.

“Violet, darling, Walter is going to think you’re daft if you keep asking that. He’s not a man to foolishly hand out job offers without need. He’s too busy for that,” Victor said. “I think it’s the perfect career for you, combining the two things you love most in the whole wide world, gardens and children. Seems like a no-brainer to me.”

Violet suddenly went into hysterical giggles which swiftly turned to tears welling in her eyes.

Victor turned to Walter and smiled. “I think that’s a yes.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ch 63: Same old, same old


Victor grinned as he watched Garrett Johansen and Violet turn the corner and disappear behind the black culmed bamboo clump at the entrance to the children’s garden. That would be the last time he smiled for the next hour.

“Victor, I wondered if I’d see you here.”

The sultry voice sent a shiver down his spine and wiped the smile off his face. Bracing himself he turned and came face-to-face with his ex-wife. 

“Hello, Kat. Nice to see you,” he said with zero enthusiasm.

She smiled coldly. “Don’t call me that,” she said, through clenched teeth.

“Yes, I forgot. It’s Katherine now. You look well,” he said.

“Don’t sound so surprised. I try to keep fit,” she retorted.

“Yes,” he said stoically as he recalled how she always ditched the boys every chance she got to go to a Pilates class. Glancing over her golden head, he added, “Where’s Andy?”

“He had to work tonight,” she said, looking intently at him. “You brushed off Silvia, I hear. How’d you manage that? You couldn’t do it while we were married. What’s changed?”

“Might it surprise you to know I’ve learned a thing or two since our divorce? It truly helps when you ignore those who bother you,” he retorted, looking every bit as if he wanted to employ such a tactic now. He even turned and took a few steps away. Unfortunately, Katherine followed in step, apparently not taking the hint.

“And it’s not the little chippy you brought here?” she said, smiling slyly.

Victor glared at her. “Could be,” he remarked, a warning in his voice.

“Who is she?” Katherine asked. “Have you been seeing her long?”

“When that’s any of your concern, I’ll make certain to let you know.”

“It is my concern if you marry this tramp and she ends up with the boys’ inheritance,” she replied coldly even as she smiled to a passing acquaintance.

“Not this again,” he mumbled. “Must we do this here?”

“And when would be a better time? When this babe’s got you by the balls?” she asked her brilliant blue eyes mere slits in her classically beautiful face. 

“Now, you’re confusing her with you, Kat,” he said, snidely.

“Don’t call me that. Gordon just told me you’re never in the city anymore. What’s up with that? You’re a partner for goodness sake!”

“Again, when that concerns you…”

“It concerns the boys, so it concerns me. You’ve seen them?” she said, changing the subject at the speed of light.

He sighed. “If you mean for spring break, yes. We had a great time. Ronnie’s supposed to get a picture CD out to me soon. I’m sure he’ll send one to you if you ask.”

“It’s been more than a month, hasn’t it?” she said.

“Yes, but you know how he is. Even vacation pictures have to be a musical production,” he said, nodding to a passing acquaintance as they continued walking the length of the conservatory.

“If he’d only apply himself to his studies as much as he does to that blasted music of his, he might not be failing all his classes,” she snapped. “That’s your fault, buying him that stupid guitar for his birthday. I swear you do it to spite me.”

“Yes, everything I do is to spite you. I learned from the best,” Victor sardonically said stopping and turning to her. “He’s not failing all his classes, surely.”

“Do you even care?” she retorted waspishly.

“Of course, I care. He’s my son,” he said.

“You might act like it sometimes, instead of being his best buddy and letting him get away with murder,” she countered. 

“Don’t you dare put that on me, Kat. You’re the one that practically stole them from me and then promptly got them a new daddy. What was I to do? I was forced to be nothing more to them than a distant uncle with no say about anything. But that was your intent all along, wasn’t it? To get me out of the way, so you could have full reign. I never could understand your logic.  You never wanted them and yet…”

“That’s not true!” she shouted.

“I was there, Katherine. Don’t rewrite history. You fought me tooth and nail. And when you finally gave in, or, as you so often liked to put it, I forced you to be a baby factory, you never let me hear the end of it,” he said, his jaw clenched so tightly he thought he might break a tooth.

“As usual, you exaggerate,” she said dismissively. 

“Do I? You hated being just a mother, hated the boys for ruining your dreams and you hated me for ruining your life. Well, I think we’re even. You ruined mine too. You didn’t want the boys yet you refused to let me have them. Einstein couldn’t figure you out.”

At that point they came upon a knot of people and they paused in their discussion to greet them in a civil manner they simply couldn’t manage for each other.

“Victor, don't go,” she said tugging on his arm, once they were alone again.

“Aren’t we done yet? I’ve got people to see,” Victor said impatiently.

“Ah, yes, you must get back to your gold digger,” Katherine said snidely.

“I suppose you would know a gold digger being one yourself,” he muttered.

“If you will recall, I took none of your money though I was entitled to it.”

“Only because Marty threatened to disinherit you. It’s all about money for you,” Victor said, triumphantly.

“Don’t call her that. Her name is Martha. No decent seventy year old woman goes by Marty.”
“She hates being called Martha and she’s sixty-eight. I would think her own daughter would know that.”

“As always happens, you divert me from my point,” she huffed, hands clenched by her side.

“You mean you had one other than destroying my good mood tonight?”

“My point and the only thing I ever have to talk with you about, are my sons.”

“Our sons, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes, well, there’s my point. You’re turning them against me.”

He glared at her, incredulous. “Do you hear yourself, Katherine? You are actually accusing me of what you’ve been doing for over a decade. I’m certain this will astound you, but I’ve never spoken a word against you to either of them…ever.”

“You expect me to believe that? They never want to come home anymore. They’re too busy going here and there with dad,” she said, her eyes oddly bright all of a sudden.

“I’m lucky the boys call me dad at all, so, I won’t apologize when they want to spend time with me. You’ve had them long enough. You’ve punished me enough, too, I’d say.” 

 “You’re always making me the bad cop with them.”

“You were born the bad cop, Kat. That has little to do with me and everything to do with your father and you know it.”

That stung her, Victor could tell. He almost regretted saying it…almost.

“While you’re Mr. Let’s-go-on-spring-break, I’m always the one that has to push the boys, Ronnie especially, to do something useful, to make something of himself. You fight me at every turn. Why can’t you ever back me up?”

“Back you up for what? To destroy their spirit, to quash their dreams?  You made it quite clear several years ago that I have no say in their lives and they know it. So, all of a sudden, I’m to be consulted, but only if I agree with you and back you up? You’ve got some nerve, Katherine.”

“So, you’re just going to let Ronnie flitter away his life on his stupid music?”

“What do you want from me, Katherine? You’ve got him where you want him, at Wharton taking business course he has no right taking. If he's floundering, it's no one's fault but yours.”

“Well, with his own father telling him he can’t do it…”

“I never told him he couldn’t. I’ve always told both Simon and Ronnie they could do whatever they set their minds to do, if they have a passion for it. You lucked out with Simon. He was quite willing to follow in your father’s footsteps. He wants to be a doctor. He’s suited to that life and good for him, but you had to twist Ronnie’s arm until he agreed to go to business school. What good is that? He has no passion for it. He is ill suited to it, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his mother, so there he is, struggling with something he cares not a whit about because his mother put a guilt trip on him.”

Victor shook his head and continued, before she could interrupt. “Did it ever occur to you Ronnie might not want to come home because all you ever do is spend what little time you have together bitching about his music. That is his passion and you belittle it. How do you think that makes him feel?”

“There’s no future in that, Victor. He actually thinks he can be a rock star. And so what if he could? You actually want him wasting his life like that when he could be…”

“Miserable being a business executive?” he suggested. “Yes, I would. I would much rather see him struggling with something he loves than miserably being successful at something he hates. You don’t want to hear it, Katherine, but he’s good at music, very good.  So, don’t you expect me to back you up.  Not on your life.”

With that he stalked off and very nearly,  in his anger, decapitated a flowering Rose-of-Sharon topiary. He didn’t, however, because he knew Violet wouldn’t like that. He smiled thinking about her and had the most intense desire to be with that wonderfully cheery woman. 

Violet was so NOT Katherine.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ch 62: Disappointment and delight

Violet had never seen a more beautiful sight and it wasn’t just the million orchids on display all over the place. The people were dressed in stunning apparel and most of them sparkled with untold fortunes in jewels.

“Makes me look like a poor relation in comparison,” Violet muttered behind her glass of champagne. 
 
“No way! You’re gorgeous and everyone here knows it,” Richard told her as a man passing by gave Violet an appreciative look. He glared at the guy despite the fact he couldn’t be seen and said, “Move on, buddy. She’s taken.”

Violet, having been looking at the flowers in front of her, didn’t see the man nor the other few leering at her.

“How do they do it?” she mumbled stepping closer to what appeared to be a thousand orchid plants formed into a huge ball.

“Never mind that. Where’s Victor?” Richard irritably asked looking around.

“He’s being bored to death by Julian Rothchild. Oh, but he loathes that man,” Heidi said sympathetically. “Violet dear, you must rescue him.”

Violet tore her eyes away from the flowers and spotted Victor nodding to a bombastic man whose voice was as loud as his belly was large. Violet could tell even from this considerable distance that Victor’s eyes were glazing over. But that was until he caught her eye and his face suddenly seemed to glow. She smiled and read his thoughts –something along the lines of “Help me, Violet!” -- quite as clearly as she could hear the stout man speaking over the rumble of the crowd.   

She giggled and turned in their direction just as a very tall, thin woman stepped in her way.

“Lovely,” the woman said, unenthusiastically looking at the orchid display.

“Oh, yes! Extraordinary. I was trying to see how this was done. I think they must have mesh to hold the roots together and…”

“You came with Victor Romanoff, didn’t you?” the woman interrupted, her voice somehow accusing.

“Uh…yes,” Violet replied, her eyes wide with wonder.

The woman then gave Violet a thorough looking over up and down. “Christian Dior,” she said.

“Hello, Christian. I’m Violet Bennett,” she replied.

The woman raised an indolent eyebrow and smiled coldly. “The gown,” she muttered through clenched teeth.

Violet then looked at the woman’s dress. It was made of a slinky silver fabric and was as sparkly as the hundreds of diamonds she wore around her long ivory-colored throat and down onto her chest--her unnaturally well-endowed and barely concealed chest which was annoyingly at eye level. Violet never wished she was taller more than at that precise moment.  To have those huge globes right in her face was beyond embarrassing. The woman, she noticed, was thin as a rail as well and Violet fleetingly wondered how she managed to stay upright.

“Does she not have any idea how ridiculous she looks?” Richard asked, unable to remove his eyes from the woman’s ill-proportioned body.

“Sadly, no,” Heidi answered, staring daggers at the woman.

“For Pete’s sake! She makes Barbie dolls look totally normal,” he shouted.

“Yes, we all know that body came from a surgeon, but that’s hardly our concern, Richard. We must get Violet away from this cougar or she’ll be eaten alive, almost literally!”

Richard scoffed. “Violet can take her. A stiff breeze and Barbie’ll topple over and lay there like an upturned turtle unable to move. I’d actually like to see that!” He suddenly laughed raucously until Heidi poked him hard in the ribs. “Hey!”

“I’m serious,” she snapped. “This is Silvia, a vicious, back-stabbing woman, and she’s had her claws out for my Victor since she was ten years old.”

“Betcha she didn’t have those headlights then. That’s why he didn’t notice her.”

“My Victor has better taste than that!” Heidi angrily retorted.

“Obviously. He wants my Violet,” he said.

Go get Victor. Hurry! There’s no telling what Silvia’s capable of doing to our sweet little Violet,” Heidi earnestly said, shoving Richard away toward Victor.

“Um…it’s a very pretty gown, Christian,” Violet said, forcing a smile.

“My name is Silvia,” she said, scornfully.

“Okay...oh, Silvia Middleton? I just met your mom and dad. Nice people,” Violet said.

“I’m so glad you approve of them,” Silvia sarcastically countered.

Without anything to say to that, Violet turned back to the orchid display and attempted to read a small plague which bore the botanical name of the plant. “Dor-it-a-en-op-sis. Ooh, that’s a mouthful. Don’t know if I’ll ever remember that,” Violet muttered.

 “Where did Victor find you?” Silvia asked, incredulous.

“We met at a supermarket, but he was friends with my brother first,” Violet replied while trying to read more about this particular plant.

“Indeed,” Silvia said her mouth twisting ruefully. “He didn’t mention you at my Christmas party. So you couldn’t have been with him then or he would have brought you, surely.”

“Huh?” Violet said distractedly. “I didn’t know Victor at Christmas.”

“Really, then how long have you two been…”

“Violet, my love, you must try this,” Victor said suddenly appearing with a plate full of appetizers, one of which he held in his hand and promptly stuffed into Violet’s gaping mouth. “Isn’t it yummy?”

Her mouth being full she could do nothing more than nod and stare up at him, aghast. My love? Since when did he ever call her that? That question, however, was not to be asked nor answered directly.

“Hello, Victor,” Silvia purred, smiling brightly at him.

“Silvia, I didn’t see you there. I saw your parents before. They’re looking well,” Victor said, only glancing her way long enough to be polite. He then smiled down at Violet and added. “You should try this one. It’s even better.”

“Victor, please. I can feed myself,” Violet said, stopping him from shoving another into her mouth. She had only just swallowed the other one after all.

“I know, Sweetheart, but you’ll love it... as much as I love you,” he said seductively. He then whispered in her ear, “Play along, Violet, I beg of you.”

Her eyes as wide as they would go, she hesitated a moment before she nodded and allowed Victor to bring the tiny bit of food to her lips. 

“If you really want Silvia off your back, you should kiss Violet,” Richard mumbled. “Just a tiny peck, should do it.”

Victor liked that idea very much. He bent down and dropped a kiss on her dewy lips and then another and yet another.

“What the hell, dude! I said one little kiss!” Richard snarled.

Victor reluctantly pulled back, smiled and held the morsel of food to her lips again.

“Victor…” Violet mumbled, gaping at him.

“Yes, my love,” he said.

Blushing Violet glanced at Silvia, who wore an expression of one who had just swallowed a very bitter pill. Violet quickly looked away and almost bit Victor’s finger in her haste to have something to do to take away the feel of those sensual lips on her own. She then grabbed another one off the plate and downed the rest of her champagne. She’d need a few of those, too, she thought, looking at her empty glass.  A good buzz might make her forget that kiss.

Just then a rather attentive waiter replaced her empty glass for a full one and whisked away before she could thank him.

“How convenient,” she muttered, before taking a sip.

“It was very nice seeing you again, Silvia, but you’ll have to excuse us. I have several people I need to introduce to Violet,” Victor said merrily, his arm snaking possessively around Violet and leading her away.  

When they were outside of the stony-faced Silvia’s hearing he quietly rambled, “Thank God you were here, Violet. I can’t thank you enough. You just saved me big time. Once that woman gets her claws into a man…well, you don’t want to know! I swear, you’re the best friend I ever had.”

“Charlie isn’t going to like that!” Heidi reminded him.

“Well, that’s except for Charlie, but he’s more like a brother really,” Victor said, grinning and giving Violet little squeeze. “Really, Violet, I owe you. I’m buying you one of every orchid they have and building you a greenhouse to keep them all in.”

Violet stopped suddenly and glared at him. “You will not! I have zero knowledge about orchids. I’ll end up killing them all,” she shrieked.

“Well, then,” he replied, laughing at her. “It’s a good thing you’re about to meet Mr. Orchid himself. He’ll tell you all you can stand to know about the pretty little plants and anything else at Weston.” 

With that he took her across the little stone bridge which spanned the babbling brook between the north and south sides of the wide conservatory. They stopped next to a small and rather nervous looking fellow who appeared to be trying to hide himself behind a large camellia bush. 

“Mr. Johansen, I wonder if you remember me?” Victor said.

The man spun around, startled. “Yes, yes, of course I do,” he replied, fidgeting with his bow tie and pushing his glasses up his nose.

“I have someone here who is dying to ask you about your marvelous orchid displays. Violet Bennett this is Garret Johansen, a master gardener if ever there was one,” Victor said.

“Oh, I’m so pleased to meet you, Mr. Johansen,” Violet said. “Did you really design all the exhibits here?”

“Yes, yes, I…I’m the one,” he said, smiling nervously. “Do you know Orchids?”

“None personally,” she replied. Then realizing what an odd thing she said she giggled. “I mean, I don’t have any at home. They can’t survive in my garden in Catalpa Valley after all.”

“Ah,” he said, visibly brightening. “So, you garden? You know a bit then, about horticulture?”

“Very little,” she replied, modestly.

“Nonsense, Violet,” Victor interjected. “You have a lovely garden, the envy of the neighborhood if not the whole of Catalpa Valley.”

“Victor, don’t exaggerate,” she mumbled, her cheeks turning bright pink.

“Mr. Johansen, you should hear her when she walks around the conservatory. She knows each and every plant by name. I can’t wait for the weather to truly warm up so she can see the gardens outside. I could use the lesson. I know Violet will know every tree, shrub and perennial out there,” Victor said adamantly nodding. “I tell you, she’s good.”

“That so?” he said, smiling at Violet. “May I give you a tour of the conservatory, Ms. Bennett? I can show you the behind-the-scenes work involved if you’re interested and I’m quite willing to answer any questions you may have.”

“Oh, that would be fantastic, Mr. Johansen!” she said excitedly.

“Garret, please,” he replied.

Violet's eyes brightened but then she glanced at Victor who smiled indulgently. “Would it be all right, Victor?” she asked.

“Of course. That’s why I brought you here. Go on, have fun. I have a few people I need to speak with. I’ll catch up with you in a bit.”

He watched with a satisfied grin as the two walked off already animated in their discussion of every plant they came to. 

“Aren’t you afraid he’ll steal her away from you?” Richard asked. “They have tons in common you know, a crazy love of plants."

“No, can’t say I’m too worried,” Victor answered. “I see good things coming from this little meeting.”

Richard scratched his head and wondered what exactly that meant.