“Oh, I feel so sorry for them,” Violet said softly, as she watched Jeffery carried out to the car by his dad who looked like he just got hit in the head with a two by four. It brought tears to her eyes when Tony gave the squirming child an extra hug and a tiny kiss on the top of his shiny black hair before putting him into his car seat. “He looks so...”
“Stunned, yes, I know, and lost and worried too, no doubt,” Victor finished for her. He placed a reassuring arm around her shoulders and added, “Early intervention is crucial for autism and the Center for Developmental Disabilities will definitely help. The people there will guide Jeffery’s parents through it all. You’ll see, Jeffery will really gain from this. They all will.”
Violet nodded and instinctively turned towards him. She sighed and snuggled into his arms, arms that felt so safe, warm and secure. It was only when her arms went around his waist and they barely reached that she realized he wasn’t her skinny-as-a-rail Richard. She stiffened and felt her face burn scarlet. She stepped back not quite looking at him.
“I...I’m sorry...I... well, thank you for all your help, Victor, but you, uh...I should...you should go. You’ve done so much today. I’ll close up and leave too, after I close up...make sure everything’s okay.” She rambled on almost incoherently, moving about restlessly, all flustered. Victor just barely kept from laughing.
“Well, you can go now,” she said giving him a stern look. What, she wondered irritably, was he waiting for? “I’ll be fine. You don’t have to stay. I’ll only be a bit then I’ll go home.”
“Have you forgotten something?” he asked.
“No, of course not. You go on. I’ll only be a while,” she said moving away from him and into the playroom. She looked in and frowned seeing it quite put together and devoid of people. Everyone had gone while she and Victor, mostly Victor, spoke to Tony. She had hoped to have to do several minutes of cleaning up, alone.
She suddenly wanted to be very far away from Victor and his penetrating gaze. She wanted a few minute to compose herself, to reflect on poor little Jeffery and his parents who surely will be beside themselves. She also needed to chastise her stupid brain for allowing her even for a minute to think of Victor as someone she could turn to as she would to Richard.
Frankly, she wanted to forget she ever met Victor. She simply wanted to jump into her car and...
“Oh, no,” she moaned as realization struck her.
“She finally got there,” Victor said. He had followed her and stood with a grin on his face mere inches away.
She spun around and nearly collided with him. “Guess I did forget,” she muttered reluctantly.
“I perfectly understand. Wouldn’t like to be without a car myself, so, I can imagine it is a bit frustrating for you. Plus, you’ve had a trying day. You must feel weary and a bit depressed, I’m thinking.”
She stared up at him her eyes wide with disbelief. How had he known? “Um, you can still go home, Victor. I can call Laurie or one of my other friends. You don’t have to worry about me, you know.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m already here and, as always, at your disposal. If you like,” he said checking his watch and frowning. “I could call and see if Bill and the boys are still opened or at least willing to wait for us to get there. You can have your new car and ....”
As much as she wanted her own car she shook her head. “I wouldn’t want to cause trouble for them. They were so nice and I’m sure they’d like to get home to their own families. It can wait until...until tomorrow.”
She chanced a glance up at him only to see an indulgent smile on his face. This unaccountably annoyed her. She was so hoping to be finally rid of him. “Fine, then take me home,” she said a bit gruffly.
“And leave you to mope around blaming yourself for Jeffery? Jeffery will be fine now, Violet, and the fact you didn’t notice he had autism when his own parents, his doctor and anyone else he is much closer to should tell you it wasn’t your fault at all.”
She stared up at him completely lost for words. How had he known that was precisely what she was feeling, guilt over not seeing what was right under her nose? But he was right. She wasn’t the only one that missed it. She bit her lip and suddenly felt a whole lot better, as if a weight suddenly lifted off her chest.
“So, if you’re willing to wait for the car until we get it tomorrow, how about this? I take you out to a nice dinner and perhaps we can take a stroll,” he said, his warm hand encompassing hers. He pulled her toward the front door, grabbed her coat and held it out for her.
“A stroll? In this weather?” she said grimacing at the now gently falling snow just beyond the window.
“It’ll be warm where I’m thinking of going,” he said as he placed her scarf around her neck
She made a funny face as she put her hat on. “And that would be where? Australia?”
He laughed. “Little closer than that,” he said evasively, opening the door and allowing her to exit first.
She locked the door and gave him a stern look as she placed the keys in her purse. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
He grinned and held the car door open for her. That was her answer.
“Victor, we can’t go in there,” Violet said in an almost fearful voice. “This is the Herringbone Inn, a very exclusive restaurant.”
“Is it? Well, we’ll soon find out, won’t we?” he replied sounding completely unconcerned.
Violet stood behind him for as long as he would allow her which was but a minute. Again she wasn’t exactly dressed for this sort of place. Granted she didn’t have baby spit-up on her shoulder like last time, but still she was plainly dressed, definitely not good enough for this place. Not that she’d ever been here before but she had heard stories.
As Victor spoke to the haughty looking man at the entrance she surreptitiously looked around. Except for a fantastic waterfall cascading into a large pond complete with several large koi fish and exotic hanging plants, a baby grand piano standing at one end of the establishment, rather uppity looking, over-dressed diners and a less the friendly serving staff it was not any nicer than the Mount Claire. Before she was through looking they were shown to their table.
“How in the world did you do that?” Violet asked in a whisper after the server left them with their menus.
“Get us in here without a reservation,” she said, her eyes wide.
“But I did.”
“Have a reservation.”
She gaped. “You...you did? But...you were planning on coming here tonight?”
“With whom?”she asked, her eyes showing her surprise. He gave her that indulgent smile that so annoyed her and she glowered at him. “Do you mean to say you called ahead of time?”
“That generally is how one gets a reservation,” he replied stoically.
“I mean, you planned on having dinner here?”
“That generally is what a reservation is for.”
“I know that, wise guy!” she snapped. “But what would make you think I would agree to have dinner with you tonight?”
“Violet, we were supposed to get your new car today, weren’t we? I assumed you’d be as hungry as I always am at this time of day. After getting the car, I figured we could stop here, before going on home. It would save you the trouble of cooking and me the horror of cooking something for myself.”
To her chagrin that made prefect sense although it didn’t make her feel any better. Thoughts of that poor little boy banging his head on the floor kept coming back to her. She felt horrible, as if it were her own child that suddenly had a label of autism stuck to his forehead. Nothing anyone said or did would make her forget it.
Of course, there was another thought foremost on her mind at present. Was there any way to be rid of this man?
“See? She doesn’t like him. She wants him gone from her life. You heard it, didn’t you?” Richard said.
He and Heidi were hovering above the table looking down on the other two. Richard was a surly as ever but Heidi remained her calm, serene self.
Heidi sighed. “Of course she likes him, Richard. And that is precisely why she wants to be rid of him.”
“What kinda logic is that?” he shouted.
“Oh, Richard, you will never understand the heart of a woman if you only listen to what she says.”
“That was her thoughts,” he retorted, pointing angrily down at his wife.
Again Heidi sighed. “And people have been known to lie to themselves, as you well know.”
He frowned not quite knowing what she was talking about and yet afraid to ask. He folded his arms over his chest and glowered the whole time. It was almost an exact repeat of their first date.
“Can we now say they are dating?” he spat out.
“Well, you’d have to ask Violet, but as she has no thoughts of romance I don’t see why we should,” Heidi replied, folding her dainty, bejeweled hands on her lap.
Richard rolled his eyes. “And what the hell do you think your son’s got on his mind?”
“I know precisely what he would like, but as it is completely one-sided this shall remain as is,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“And what’s that?” he snarled.
“Friendship, Richard my love. They are merely friends and shall remain so until such a time as she can....move on,” she answered delicately.
“Then you should advise your son to quit now cuz she ain’t gonna “move on” any time soon. She loves me and only me. She only told me that a thousand times when I was alive, you know, and another five thousand times since I died,” he said with a triumphant grin spreading over his face.
“Yes, I do know,” Heidi whispered, her tranquil expression never wavering.
That made Richard unaccountable worried and he only got more so as the evening progressed and he watched Violet relax, smile and actually enjoy herself. It did appear that she liked Victor, way more than he liked to admit.
Unfortunately for Richard, worse was coming.