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.

“I’m sorry,” he said, placing his hands around her waist, lifting her out of the truck and setting her on the ground. “I wish I knew you then. I would’ve brought you.”

She shook her head. “I was a mess then, Victor. A zombie,” she said, a sad smile on her face.

“Well, that was then, this is now,” he said. “Show me what’s so great about this place.”

She giggled, grabbed his hand and pulled him into the middle of the wild flower strewn field. “You know what this reminds me of?” she asked twirling around with her arms held out.

Victor shook his head. “Why don’t you tell me?” he said.

The hills are alive with the sound of music…   She sang with all the exuberance of Julie Andrews. 

Victor watched in stunned amusement as Violet pranced around and sang the entire song perfectly until she got to…

…I go to the hills when my heart is… lonely…    Her voice caught in her throat and she bit down on her trembling lip.

“Violet?” he said coming to her side.  

A tear rolled down her cheek as she turned to him. “I miss Richard,” she mumbled.

“Oh, sweetie,” he said taking her into his arms. “I’m sorry.”

“Tell her I…tell her Richard’s here in spirit. Tell her they’ll always have Somerset Hill. Go on, tell her!” Richard urged.

“You know what? I’ll bet Richard’s here in spirit,” Victor said. “Violet, you have to remember all the great times and then you’ll feel him. He’s here, but you have to remember. Tell me, where did he like to go? What was his favorite spot? What did he used to do here?”

Violet sniffed and wiped away the wetness on her cheek. “He and Kenny used to fly kites over there, on the knoll,” she said, pointing to a spot clear of all trees.

“Oh, that must have been fun. Is it windy up here?” he asked, rubbing her back in gentle circles.

She smiled slightly and nodded. “Very. The kite would stay up for hours,” she said, looking up at the clear sky. “And at night, when it got dark enough, they would bring the telescope out and look for Venus and Mars, Orion and whatever other goofy stuff was up there. They were going to find something new, they kept saying, a comet or something. Silly. All looked like just stars to me and Sophie. 

Victor laughed. “To me, too. What did you and Sophie do while they were plotting star charts?”

Her head snapped around to stare at him. “How in the world did you know they did that?”

“Only made sense, if they were very serious about finding a comet or something.”

“Oh,” she said. “Sophie and I used to collect tons of flowers. We made daisy crowns and buttercup necklaces and blue-eyed grass bracelets.”

“Wow, you must have looked beautiful. Like two fairy princesses,” he said. 

“Sophie was, yes. Still is, if I do say so myself,” she said, obviously proud.

“Any mother would,” he said. “What else did you do?”

“Sophie loved to horseback ride here with her friends. Kenny and his friends rode ATVs and snowmobiles in winter and and we all went ice skating on the pond. Richard and Freddy used to fish by the stream for hours and hours, too. They’d bring home buckets full of trout,” she said smiling brightly now.

“Where’s the stream?” Victor said looking around.

“It feeds into the pond. Come, I’ll show you,” she said, heading down the hill toward the stand of tulip poplars.

“Pond?” he said looking across the vast body of water. “This is a lake, Violet.”

She giggled. “Well, it is big enough to be a lake, but as there already is Lake Kramer and it’s the much bigger one of the two they had to call this one something else. So Kramer Pond it had to be.” 

"They could have gone with Smith or something," he noted.

She giggled and picked up a stone, then tossed it into the water causing ripples to radiate toward the shore. “Freddy and Richard used to try to beat each other at skipping stones. I could never do it, but Freddy was great at it. He could make a stone skip five and six times before it sunk,” she said shaking her head in astonishment. “Used to get Richard so mad though. Hated being beat.”

Victor laughed and picked a few stones up from the ground. “Show me how to do it,” he said.

“Haven’t you ever skipped stones?” she asked, incredulous.

“Honey, you forget. I’m a city boy. Ask me how to get on base in stick ball without breaking a storefront window. That I can tell you,” he assured.

Violet collapsed into giggles. “Well, I can kinda explain how it’s done, but I’m no expert.” She tried a few times and finally after the sixth try the stone skipped once.

“Well, that was pretty good,” Victor said. “Let’s see what I can do.” He got it to skip three times on his second try.

“Victor! That’s wonderful,” she said, smiling at the ripples in the water’s surface.

“Maybe there’s some country boy in me after all,” he replied. “Will you show me the stream, now?”

As they walked along the shore, Violet pointed at a beaver lodge and some turtles sunning themselves on a half-submerged log.

“Wow, I’ve only ever seen them at the zoo,” Victor said.

“Ooh, look there!” Violet said pointing at plants just coming up over the surface of the water. “My mom used to call those Trolliums. Not sure that’s their real names, but I love them. In summer they get yellow flowers. Once when I was little I leaned in trying to get one and Freddy pushed me in. Oh, I wanted to kill him! So, I pushed him in when he was reaching for a frog.”

“Oh, I wish I’d seen that!” Victor said laughing along with her.

“Then there’s the time my father insisted I come along with him and Freddy on a fishing trip,” she said, finally reaching the stream and removing her sandals. “I sulked the whole time. I wanted to pick flowers and chase butterflies.”

“Aww, poor kid,” Victor said. “Careful, it’s slippery here.”

“Hey, who’s the country kid here?” she said as she stepped on the slick stones along the river. “So, there I was bored to tears holding a fishing pole, when all of a sudden my pole starts tugging right out of my hands. So, I yank it out of the stream and this big ugly fish is wiggling in my face. I’m screaming, “Get it off! Get it off!” and my dad’s laughing his head off and Freddy’s fuming mad.”

“Why in the world was Freddy mad?” Victor said, frowning at the way she was carelessly hopping from stone to stone, his arm outstretched ready to catch her at any moment.

 “He was ticked. His stupid sister who didn’t even want to be there, caught the biggest fish of the day!” she said.

“That is precious,” Victor said chuckling.

“Don’t let Freddy hear you say that. He’s still ticked!” she said, putting her feet right in the swiftly moving water. “So, I assumed Mr. Fishy—yes, I had named him after I stopped screaming-- was my new pet. Then my dad tells me we’ll be eating him for dinner. Well, I start crying so much that he tells me Mr. Fishy needs to get back home to his family and he lets it go. Freddy got happy after that but strangely enough my dad was pretty annoyed. Go figure!” she said cheerfully.

Victor laughed out loud. He stood at the edge of the water watching her, his heart joyous that she was no longer crying over Richard. 

 “My toes are froze! I’d forgotten how cold this could be in spring,” she said, shivering slightly.

“Well, it is only freshly melted snow,” he retorted.

“Anyway, after that I always went fishing with them and I even came with Richard and we...” Her thoughts drifted off. She recalled all too vividly the other activities she and Richard engaged in by the river, almost on this very spot. She knew just slightly around the bend by a clump of sumac was the place they first…

Her mind elsewhere, she stumbled.

Victor, ever vigilant, grabbed her by the waist and pulled her to him before she hit the water.

“Careful, now, don’t want to go swimming with the Mr. Fishy, do you?” he said smiling down at her. 

 Victor so close made her heart tumble in her chest. Romantic memories of Richard meshed with fantasies of waterfalls cascading over Victor and herself caught somewhere between them. She suddenly blushed and pushed away from him, but he held on fast. 

“Violet, is something wrong?”

“I…my feet are cold,” she said, struggling to get away.

 Effortlessly, he picked her up and out of the stream and placed her on the grass. 

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” she replied breathlessly, not meeting his eyes. She stepped away from him and leaned against a tree slipping her sandals back on.

He watched her shrewdly for a minute.  What had he done wrong just now? He couldn’t imagine. “What kind of fish did you catch?” he asked, going for casual.

Forcing her thoughts away from waterfalls, she shrugged. “, maybe.”

“No wonder your dad was angry. Trout is good eating, but not so good for pets,” he said smirking. “Are there other kinds of fish in the river?”

“Uh...bass and flounder, I think,” she replied, distracted.

“No, I don’t think so. Flounder is not a freshwater fish,” he corrected.

“I, uh, guess I don’t remember,” she said, setting off up the hill and out of the wooded area, trying not to think of Richard and all their firsts and to get her heart beat back to normal.

“I’ve never fished in rivers, only out on the bay, out to sea. You should have seen the marlin Simon almost caught last year,” Victor said following her. “It was huge!”

“Really? How big?” she asked.

“Thissss big!” he shouted stretching his arms as far as they’d go. “Sounds like a real fish story, doesn’t it?” he said smirking.

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Sure, sure, I believe you, Victor,” she said sarcastically.  

“I’ve got pictures to prove it though. Really I do!” he insisted.

She giggled. “You’ll have to show them to me before I believe you. So, Victor, are you going to feed me or not?” she asked sounding her cheerful self again.

He smiled, grabbed her hand and pulled her to the spot he had already thought perfect for his house.

Violet had convinced him. Somerset Hill was indeed the best place in the world…if he could ever convince her to stay here with him, that is.

Let's not get any funny ideas!
©2013 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

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