“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 trying to make me like you, Mr. Romanoff?”
He laughed. “Guilty as charged.”
“Um, so, where are we going?” she asked before he closed her door.
He leaned in, buckled her seat belt and whispered, “The boondocks.”
“Is it too late to ask if you have an axe in this car?” she joked.
He laughed again. “You could replace Letterman, you know that?” he said.
She gasped again.
“What?” he said. “Oh, I know. Richard used to say that.”
“Um...yes, sort of. He used to say Jay Leno,” she said quietly.
“You’re better than all of them, Sweetie,” he said shutting the door and hopping into his side.
Violet was silent as they started off. She recalled the last time she and Richard had gone on a picnic. She had been wearing the very same dress. She passed her hand over the crisp blue cotton fabric, tracing the tiny embroidery on the hem with her fingertips. Richard had, come to think of it, the same reaction as Victor did upon seeing her coming down the stairs wearing this. It was definitely déjà vu.
She clearly remembered going this exact way, too, in Richard’s own and much more banged up pickup. Dear God, she thought, hadn’t Richard even picked her up to help her into the truck just as Victor just had done? And where had Victor said they were going? The boondocks. She smiled. Richard had called it the Podunk. Close enough. They went to their favorite place in the world. Wouldn’t it be wild if…
“Violet, did you not hear me?”
She turned to him and only just then noticed her vision was blurry with unshed tears. “I’m sorry... What did you say?” she said blinking quickly.
“Violet, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just…just dust in my eyes. Hazard of going out to the boonies,” she said forcing a smile.
“Never lie to a lawyer, Violet,” he said, pulling over to the side of the road.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think?” he said turning in his seat and taking her hand. “Tell me what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Victor. Really!”
He shook his head. “Nope, not buying it. Girls don’t cry for nothing, especially when there’s no dust,” he added, pointing to the closed window when she made to protest. “You were thinking of Richard, weren’t you?”
She gaped. “If you knew, why did you ask?”
“I didn’t know. I guessed,” he said. “Tell me.”
She sighed and explained some of her thoughts of the last few minutes, all the while watching his fingers curled around hers.
He lifted her chin up until she looked at him. “Would you rather not go?” he asked. “It’s okay. I understand.”
“No, Victor, it’s fine,” she insisted. “It’s such a perfect day for a picnic and besides, I’m supposed to be doing you some favor. You wouldn’t have asked me to come if it wasn’t very important.”
“You being happy is more important by far. I can still turn this thing around and bring you back home. Just say the word,” he said.
She smiled and shook her head. “You promised me a picnic. I want to see for myself what you packed for lunch.”
He grimaced. “Well, that would be a surprise for me too.”
“I got this fancy picnic basket from Chef Henry, so I haven’t a clue what’s in it,” he confessed.
She giggled. “Well, I like surprises.”
“Me too,” he said. He looked down at the instructions he wrote while talking to Morris Kramer. “The waterfall should be coming up soon. Tell me if you see it, okay?”
“You mean the one on Griller’s Creek? Is that where we’re going?” she said excitedly.
“I thought you liked surprises,” he said. “It won’t be a surprise if I tell you.”
“Well, you can’t see the waterfall from the main road. You have to turn at the next road. It’s coming up.”
“This one? You sure that’s a road?” he said, making a sharp right turn up a steep and very narrow dirt road.
“They don’t call it the boondocks for nothing,” she said. “Expect to get mud on the tires.”
She wasn’t kidding. The road was muddy with huge ruts to maneuver around as best you could. After an interminable amount of time—or so Victor thought—Violet pointed to the left. “You gotta stop here.”
“Why?” Victor asked. “You feeling nauseous?”
She giggled. “No, you silly! The waterfall’s down this path. If it’s rushing really good we can hear it from here.”
“Did you want to see the waterfall?”
She gaped at him, her eyes as wide as they’d go. “Well, don’t you? It’s best in spring after the snow’s all melted.”
“Okay,” he said, pulling over and stopping the truck.
Violet opened her door before Victor came around to her side and looked down. “Oh, my! It’s even higher than I thought.”
“Silly girl,” he said, lifting her and gently putting her down on the ground.
“I feel like a little kid when you do that,” she said, taking his hand. “Hear that? It’s really rushing! Come on. You’ll like this.”
He followed her down the twisting, turning path for several minutes and just as he was wondering if there was an end to the path the waterfall came into view.
“Oh, how beautiful!” Violet gushed.
“Wow, it is nice,” he said.
“Nice?” she said, incredulous. “It’s amazing!”
“Ah, honey, amazing would be Niagara Falls.”
“Well, this is as close to Niagara Falls as it gets around here.”
“Remind me to take you up to Niagara one day, then you’ll see what a true waterfall is. But this is very nice. I’m impressed,” he said, placing both hands on her shoulders as they stood staring at it, their faces getting misted from the water spray.
“By mid-summer it’ll be just a trickle. Enjoy it now,” she said wistfully. “Why is it everything really good never lasts forever?”
“Maybe to get us to appreciate them while we have them. If we had them forever we’d take them for granted.”
“You think so?” she asked turning to look at him.
He nodded. “With one exception,” he said, passing a finger over her damp cheek. “I doubt very much Richard ever took you for granted even though he must have known you would be together forever. Forever until you eventually had to part…just like you did.”
She stared at him, gratitude swelling within her. “Thank you. Victor,” she whispered and turned to look at the waterfall. “You always know what to say.” She stepped closer to the splashing water and let the mist mingle with her tears. A minute later she felt Victor’s hands encircle her waist and she leaned into him enjoying the warmth and his solid presence. How she wished he was Richard.
“That’s like wishing for daffodils when you have irises to admire, Dear,” Heidi whispered to her.
“If we stay here much longer, you’ll be soaked,” Victor said.
Violet nodded. “We should go…um, where are we going now? I guess it wasn’t the waterfall you came to see then?”
He shook his head. “I’m glad you made me stop though, but no, we’re not there yet,” he said, taking her hand and leading the way down the path back to the truck.
“There’s not much up here except…Victor, we’re not going to…Somerset Hill?”
“You just ruined the surprise,” he said.
“Ruined nothing at all,” she said, all excited. “I love Somerset Hill. It’s the best place in the world. Yes, better than Niagara falls, the Grand Canyon and probably Yellowstone Park, too.”
Victor laughed. “Well, honey, you’re gonna have to prove it to me.”
She giggled. “That’ll be easy. We used to come to Somerset Hill when we were kids, Freddy and me and our parents with so many of our friends and family. Then, when we got older, we came with our own friends and Richard and I used to…um…we had picnics here with the kids. So many wonderful memories of Somerset Hill. I’d bore you to tears with them.”
“Promise?” he said as they reached the truck and he opened her door.
“Huh?” she said.
“It’s a perfect day to tell stories about Richard and your kids. I’d love to hear them,” he said, lifting her into the truck. “I recall you promising to do that one day.”
“Really, you want to be bored with my stories?” she said, staring at him in surprise.
“I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it,” he replied, buckling her seat belt. “I’m sure I’ll be endlessly entertained and not the least bit bored. Besides, you’re doing me a favor, remember?” He smiled, tweaked her nose and shut the door.
Somehow, Violet thought, Victor would be the one doing her the favor.