“Victor, you’re home!” she shouted and threw herself into his waiting arms. “I’ve missed you so much.”
He held her close, lifting her right off her feet. “I’ll never leave you again,” he said in a voice full of emotion.
“Promise?” she asked smiling into his face.
“That and so much more. I love you, Violet.”
She giggled. “I love you, too.” She kissed him then, long and sweet, a kiss that held such promise, so much....
“Fill it, Mister, regular?”
Victor snapped back to reality and stared up at the pimply youth. The kid, probably not any older than Ronnie, wore a Mets cap turned jauntily to the side and was giving Victor an insolent look that clearly said, “I ain’t got all day.”
“Uh, no, premium,” Victor said handing him his credit card. He sighed then sat back and closed his eyes trying to recapture the fantasy. It had been a good one. But it was just that, a fantasy just like all the rest of them. How he wished it wasn’t. And now he would be without seeing Violet for who knows how long and he was surely dreaming if he imagined she would welcome him back after even a few days with anything other than indifference.
His jaw clenched with irritation. He was mad as hell at that arrogant little bastard, Paul Madera. He snorted with derision just thinking about that fresh-out-of-law-school pip-squeak thinking he could take on the big guns just because his daddy happened to be a judge. Well, he bit off way more than he could chew, just as Victor knew would happen. Because of his mess up, Victor now had to leave Catalpa Valley for the city just as he was getting somewhere with Violet. Blast it all!
Not that it mattered much, he reluctantly told himself. He would be heading out on spring break anyway. He was to meet his boys and fly out of Kennedy to the Grand Canyon in ten days. They would be gone for almost two weeks, too. That was nearly a month away from Violet. As much as he loved his boys and wanted to spend time with them, half of him wanted to stay behind for Violet.
Victor gave a weary sigh. He knew whatever progress with Violet he managed would be lost with that much of a time lapse. He would have to start at zero again once he got back home. If only he could somehow place himself front and center in Violet’s mind while he was gone. But how?
As he sat in his car idly looking around, he caught sight of a young man holding a large coffee cup in one hand and a bunch of scraggly looking flowers wrapped in heart-dotted cellophane. He stood there waiting for his receipt when the attendant asked, indicating the flowers, “You fight with your girl?”
The young man grinned. “No, it’s her birthday and I totally forgot. I couldn’t find anything else in there and no other stores are open yet,” he said indicating the convenience store.
“Amateur,” Victor disdainfully mumbled to himself.
He would never allow such a special date to go without careful attention. He would have planned something special for the woman he loved weeks in advance. He knew if it were Violet’s birthday he would make reservations to the best restaurant in town and take her dancing and buy her two huge flower arrangements, one for her home and one sent to her work place so she would be the envy of all her co-workers and friends. He would make them huge as well, so they could not go unnoticed. He would buy her something pretty to wear and fine jewelry plus her favorite perfume. Yes, all of the above sounded about right when you love someone as much as he loved Violet.
“Here ya go,” the kid said, handing him the credit card and the slip of paper to sign.
Victor returned the pen and thanked the boy. As he pulled out of the gas station he was still thinking of Violet and all the things he’d like to give her if only he knew her birthday. He wanted to make her happy, permanently, supremely, eternally happy.
“She was full of joy last night, remember?” a tiny, motherly voice whispered in his ear.
That was true. He had never seen Violet so happy as she was last night at the botanical garden. It made him smile just thinking about it, but that instantly turned to a frown. He recalled quite clearly that he had seen her happier once. The time he first saw her with Richard at the little league game.
Yes, she had been very happy then, he could tell even from a distance. It was a happiness that made her glow from within. And Victor knew why. Richard made her truly happy. It twisted at his gut knowing this.
It was quite apparent to make Violet wonderfully happy again in a permanent way, he would have to turn back the years to a time when she had her beloved Richard. This was hard for him to even think, but he knew he would do it in an instant. For Violet he would, if he could, bring back Richard, just to see her smile, to see her really and truly happy.
“I believe you heard that as clearly as I did,” Heidi said, giving Richard a triumphant look.
Richard could just gape. Not in a million years would he have expected that, not from the man that wanted to steal his wife away.
“Have you ever loved Violet that unselfishly?” Heidi asked, glaring at him. “Perhaps now you will realize Victor cares for her deeply and would sooner die than harm her. He wants only the best for her. He wants to make her happy. Is that so terrible?” Heidi asked, a note of desperation in her voice.
Richard could not answer. Two powerful emotions settled in his heart, shame mixed with rancor. Rancor won. He didn’t care what Heidi said. It was terrible, especially if it meant his Violet would fall for this slick dude and forget all about him. But he couldn’t exactly say that without sounding petty and selfish, just as she accused him of being. So, he went for the jugular.
“Yeah right,” he said forcing some false bravado into his voice. “Just as long as he can get in her pants.”
A sharp intake of breath told him he had made Heidi furious. “You are crude, Richard. I fear you care nothing about Violet and will do your best to hold her back from living a good life. You are doing her no favor by staying here. You are a disgrace to the name of spirit guide. Go! I won’t have you near my son,” she spat at him.
Obediently Richard lifted himself through the roof of the car and left them alone.
Heidi took a moment to calm herself before turning to her precious son. He looked so sad and it tore at her heart. “There are other ways of making a grieving person happy again,” she whispered.
Victor supposed there were, a great many ways no doubt, but that was a fleeting sort of joy bought with gifts. Violet wasn’t like that. She wouldn’t be bought with gifts.
“No, not with gifts but with the gesture behind them. You give with your heart. You show you care. She knows about that because that is precisely how she is. She saw that in you when you brought all those toys for the children at the daycare center and especially what you did for that poor little Sherry. That stuck with her, Victor, because she knew you got nothing out of that.”
Victor scoffed. “Yes, I did. I had the pleasure of seeing that little girl smile. I made her smile just with a...”
“A giving gesture, yes. Violet can appreciate that sort of thing. Don’t you think?”
He nodded slowly as he waited at the light. “Just to see her smile, I’d give her a gift everyday of her life, but then she would figure out I’m in love with her. Don’t think that would be a good thing.... yet,” he mumbled to himself.
“True,” Heidi replied. “If you had no reason for giving her things. But what if you did have a very good reason?”
He scoffed again. “I have a great reason already. I’m completely in love with her and would hand her the world if she wanted it, scot free, no strings attached, just to see her smile.”
“Yes, but I mean a different type, sort of a birthday present only...not. Do you see?”
He started laughing. “What, like an un-birthday gift? Yeah, she’d like that. She already calls me as mad as the madhatter.”
“Precisely. It would be like an inside joke between the two of you. While you’re gone for that long while, she could receive a different offering every day. As the saying goes, there are 364 un-birthdays. Of course, you will eventually hit on her birthday if only by accident.”
Victor stared into space. That was a brilliant idea! He sat immersed thinking of the possibilities. It was only when someone behind him honked that he snapped out of his revery and realized the light had turned green. He grinned. The light had turned green for him and Violet, too.
Victor showed up at her door at the appointed time and out of habit went for the doorknob without knocking. Much to his chagrin it was unlocked. He frowned and knew he had to talk to her about this again. Just then Calendula leapt out of the rhododendron bush and meowed at him.
He smiled and scooped her up. “Well, I suppose Violet let you out this morning. Guess I can’t chastise her for leaving the door unlocked all night then, can I? Let’s go see what she’s doing, okay?”
He opened the door and smiled. “Damn, that smells good,” he muttered to the cat still cradled in his arms. “And do you hear that? She’s singing!”
He walked quietly on the tile floor making no noise, but he wasn’t likely to be heard anyway, not with the volume of the music coming from the radio. He stood in the doorway holding the purring cat, his mouth agape. Violet was singing at the top of her voice and swaying her hips in time with the music while cooking up a breakfast feast.
“Mama said idle hands are devil’s handy work, ooh, the trouble you’ll get into...you got nothin’ better to do....got nothin’ better to do...yeah, yeah, yeah!” Violet sang loudly.
“Wow,” Victor mumbled. He stared speechless. He’d never seen anything so sexy. He wished it never would stop. But it did.
Once Violet turned toward the table and she spotted Victor, she let out a shriek that scared Calendula out of her comfortable stupor. The cat leapt to the floor and hid under the table.
“Victor! You scared me half to death!” she shouted, her hand over her heaving chest. “Do I have to teach you how to knock?”
“I...I’m sorry...I ...I saw Calendula and....uh...sorry,” he said, hoping he didn’t look as guilty as he felt.
She glared at him then glanced at the cat who stuck her head out from under a chair. She gave a pathetic mew that sounded oddly guilty. “So, this is what you’ve been reduced to, Calendula? Dragging bossy lawyers in at the crack of dawn to scare the heck out of me? I prefer beheaded moles!”
Victor for all his worth tried not to laugh but to no avail.
“And what’s so funny?” she asked, her hands on her hips and the expression on her face murderous.
“Well, not preferred to a beheaded mole. As it usually goes for lawyers, that’s pretty good.”
Violet rolled her eyes and turned off the radio. She turned back and gave him a suspicious look. “How long were you standing there?”
“Just got here, just a couple of seconds, that’s all,” he lied with a nervous clearing of the throat. He was a lawyer for Pete’s sake! So why was it so hard to lie to this little lady who couldn’t hurt a fly?
“It couldn’t be because you always found it rather difficult to lie to the women in your life?” Heidi suggested, a hint of a smirk in her voice.
He cleared his throat again and attempted a smile. “Good morning, Violet. You look lovely today.”
“Hmm, not as good as you,” she said frowning at his suit. “Oh, Victor, how many times do I have to tell you not to go picking up Calendula when you’re all dressed up? There’s hair all over you now.”
“Is there?” he remarked looking down at his arms which were, in fact, covered with long ginger colored hair. He, however, shrugged, completely unconcerned. “I’ll change in the city.”
“Change? Oh, for heaven’s sake!” she muttered irritably. She went to a drawer and pulled out a lint brush. “I’ll fix you.”
“Mama’s been trying to do that for years and you think you can do it with that thing? We’ll see about that,” he replied smirking.
“Oh, but you are funny, aren’t you?”
He chuckled. “I try.”
He stayed perfectly still as she studiously removed all traces of the cat from his chest and arms, picking occasion at a stubborn hair with her fingers. It gave him goose bumps having her so near. He could smell her sweet orange blossom scent and could barely keep from sighing in delight.
Violet looked up at him then and said, “What are you smiling at?”
“Smiling? I’m not smiling,” he said straightening his face in hurry.
“No, huh?” she rolled her eyes again and passed the brush over his arm one last time before adding, “There. Almost perfect.”
“Only almost?” he asked grinning at her. “What would make me perfect?”
She glared at him and poked at his broad chest. “You could learn to knock!”
“Ah. Duly noted," he said, hiding his grin.