Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ch 23: Empathy by Glory Lennon

Just as Violet opened her mouth to voice a half dozen questions, Victor’s cell phone went off with a musical number she recognized from long ago. “Isn’t that “Doctor my eyes”?” she said, looking at him curiously.

“It is. That’s Simon ringtone,” Victor said looking at the phone with a crease between his eyebrows.

“Well, aren’t you going to answer?”

He looked at her then back at the phone. “Do you mind?”

“Of course not! You’re supposed to drop everything for your kids,” she stated as if any idiot should know that.

Predictably he chuckled. “He’s not exactly ten years old anymore, you know,” he replied.

“Like that matters!” she huffed. She frantically pointed to the ringing phone. “Answer it!”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said and chuckling he went into the living room. “Hello, Simon, this better be good.”

“Whadaya mean? Am I interrupting something?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” Victor said casting a glance over his shoulder checking to ensure Violet wasn’t listening.

“Business or pleasure? Wait, don’t answer. I know you never have any fun,” Simon said with an audible sigh.

“What is it, Simon?” Victor asked, now impatient.

“It’s that time of year again, Dad. Spring break and I’ve got an excellent idea,” Simon said excitedly.

“Oh? Cancun?” Victor said, then frowned at the beeping sound coming over the line. “Simon, hold for me. Gotta another call coming in.”

“Sure, dad,”he replied.


“Hey, Dad! How ya doin’?”Ronnie’s voice shouted in his ear.

“Ronnie. It's absolutely uncanny how you and your brother always call at precisely the same time,”Victor said holding the phone an inch away from his ear. “So what’s up?”

“Gees, Dad, ya gotta know it’s time to plan for spring break!”Ronnie said, sounding as exasperated as he did excited.

“Should have known. Wait a second while I get you both on at once,” Victor answered.  “Simon, you there?”

“Here,” he said.


“Here, Dad,”

“Oh, no, not you,” Simon groaned.

“Hey, I’m not that thrilled either,” Ronnie snapped.

“Guys! Must we?” Victor interjected.

“Sorry, Dad,” they both mumbled.

“Now, Simon, what’s this great plan of yours?”

“Wait! I can beat his!” Ronnie bellowed. “I wanna go whitewater rafting down the Colorado river!”

“What the f... I was gonna say that!” Simon growled.

“Yeah, right,” Ronnie said, sarcastically.

“I was. We should hike down to the bottom and camp overnight, too,” Simon added.

“Sure, once I gave you the idea,” Ronnie quipped.

“Guys! I wish you two would stop bickering long enough to realize how similar you are. You both came up with a fantastic idea. Only got one question for you,” Victor said pausing to get their attention.

“What?” they replied simultaneously.

“Can I come too?” he said grinning. He knew the answer before both boys said, “Duh!”

“You gotta come, Dad,” Ronnie said.

“It’s tradition. You always come with us,” Simon added.

“Well, then, it’s a plan. I’ll make the arrangements and get back to you. Now if you will excuse me I’ll get back to my...uh...”

“No way! Dad, are you on a date?”Ronnie shrieked, sounding more thrilled than was possible. “Who is she? Do we know her? What’s her name? Are you in love yet?”

“I’ll tell you all about it while we’re hiking into the Grand Canyon, okay? Good night, guys. Love you,” Victor said.

He hung up but not before hearing the boys say, “Hot damn, he’s on a date!” and “Finally, he’s gonna get some.”  He just couldn’t tell which said what. Smiling he went back to Violet.

Meanwhile, Violet was cleaning up the kitchen with her mind only half on what she was doing. The other half was on all Victor had just told her. It was true what he said about small town living. Everybody knew everybody, more of less, so she shouldn’t be surprised that he knew of her. She was, after all, Catalpa Valley’s only widow of a firefighter. Almost the entire town came to the funeral. But that he had known about her and Richard, how in love and happy they had been? That was kind of....strange.

So he had in fact known before he asked at the restaurant. He knew how Richard died. Why would he lie about that? And more importantly, how did he know how she felt after Richard’s death? How could he know her all-encompassing misery? Her own brother and all her friends didn’t even understand it and yet this stranger did? How could it be?                

It was like he could see right through her. The mind reading thing again? Is that real?

“Well, Dear, couldn’t it be empathy? Perhaps because he has suffered his own losses?” Heidi whispered in her ear. “His marriage  he admits was a death of sorts. Don’t you think he still mourns it? His mother died and he obviously still misses her terribly. And though he never mentions his father is there any doubt he misses him too?”

Violet nodded as she listened most attentively to this soft voice in her head. There was something so comforting in it, something rather familiar. She wished to hear more. She unconsciously held her breath as she spooned the leftover food into a storage container.

“And then there are the boys, Victor’s sons,” Heidi added.

Violet indeed had seen the raw pain in his eyes when he spoke of them. She noticed his jaw clenching convulsively when she mentioned their step-dad, Andy who had“ taken over dad duty.”  Oh, but there was a sore point, all right!

Did he think his boys loved their step-father more than they do him? Oh, how could he bear that! That alone could tear a soul apart. 

“He knows what you feel because he feels it all too and possibly more strongly. Victor has no one to confide in, you see. You two have a vast deal in common. More than either of you can imagine,” Heidi commented in her knowing, motherly voice. 

Violet never would have imagined it but she was starting to believe it.

So deep into her musings was she that without her realizing it tears dropped down her cheeks as she snapped the lid on the container and placed it in the refrigerator. She shook her head at such foolishness and promptly brushed the tears away. Empathy can only take you so far. She still knew virtually nothing about this man.

“But what you do know, that he is sensitive and compassionate is something, don’t you think?” Heidi asked in a gentle coaxing voice. Violet couldn’t disagree with that.

“Lookie here!” Victor exclaimed happily, coming in with the cat cradled in his arms, he scratching her favorite spot under her chin while Calendula purred contentedly.

Violet let out a shriek of surprise and dropped the spoon in her hand.

“Violet, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, patting her gently on her arm. “Are you okay?”

“It’s fine...I....what do you think you’re doing?” she said after seeing Calendula in his arms.

“Not too bright, that one,” Richard said snidely. “Doesn’t know better than to leave that scratching fiend alone. He’ll learn though, when Ginger fluff digs her claws into his pretty boy face.”

“When I finished my phone call with the boys this cute little ginger fluff came out of nowhere. She’s beautiful, Violet. She...”

“What did you call her?” Violet asked, growing faint.

“You sonava....Violet, he only said that cuz he heard me. He didn’t come up with that name himself!” Richard shouted angrily.

Victor looked up from the cat and grinned. “Well, that’s what I would call her. What’s her name?” he said before catching a glimpse of Violet’s expression. “Violet, are you all right?”  He swiftly dropped the cat onto a chair and gripped her arms.

“I’m... I’m....”

“What? What’s wrong?” he asked, growing anxious now.

“I’m... sorry,” she finally said.

Taken aback he made a weird face. “Sorry.... about what?”

“Um... yelling at you. I’m just...I’m....I don’t trust easily. Sorry,” she said.

Relief flooded him. He smiled leaning towards her and whispered in her ear, “You have nothing to be sorry about, okay?”

A shiver crawled down her spine. She didn’t trust herself to speak. She only nodded then wiped the counters and returned the kitchen to its previous sparkling cleanliness.

 “Want to watch that movie now?” he asked cautiously as he ran his fingers down Calendula’s back.

Violet was not so sure about that. “I can’t watch those movies with you,” she said nervously.

 “Why? You think some axe-murderer in the movie will give me ideas?” he joked.

“Wise guy.  I don’t like horror movies. These are romantic comedies and they...they make me cry,” she said as she dried her hands on a towel before pulling a tiny bottle of hand cream from her purse. She took out a tiny drop and rubbed it on her hands.

“Why would you want to see a movie you know will to make you cry?” he asked curiously.

“They don’t just make me cry. They are comedies so they make me laugh too...until I cry,” she said grimacing. She felt like a simpleton under his gaze.

“You mean like happy tears?” he asked.

“Um...sort of.”

“Well, I can handle that,” he stated confidently. “That’s the kind of movie my mama liked.”

“That may be, but I don’t like to cry in front of people.”

Grinning he leaned close to her again and whispered in her ear. “How about if I promise not to look? Mmmm....What is that stuff? It smells really good.”  

He  suddenly grabbing her hands bringing them to his nose. “Hmm, what a heavenly scent.”

Her heart jumped. She stared at him, his lips just brushing her knuckles. “’s just hand cream. Sophie sent it to me from some place in Florida where they make it from oranges,” she replied breathlessly.

“I love that smell. They should make bubble bath and perfume like this,” he said still holding her hands to his nose. As he spoke his lips gently brushed her knuckles  making ripples cascade down her arms and throughout her being. Her breath caught in her throat but she forced herself to speak.

“I... I think they do have... other, candles and air freshener. Want me to get Sophie to send you a brochure? You can have your own hand cream.  I would give you mine but it was a gift from my baby and I treasure every little thing they’ve ever given me,” she said, sounding braver than she felt.

They stared at each other for what seemed an eternity Victor still holding her hands up to his face.

“Um...can I have my hands back?” she asked with a nervous smile.

He grinned. “Only until I want to smell orange blossoms again. Love that smell,” he said taking one last big sniff before he let go of her hands. He then grabbed the movies off the counter. “ So, which one you want to see first? Hey, this one’s got Sandra Bullock! Oh, we got a winner!” he said grabbing her hand again and pulling her into the living room.

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