“What did you call this one? Buttercup?” Victor asked, holding up a bright yellow flower.
“No, silly. That’s a Coriopsis. This is a buttercup,” she said plucking another almost identical flower--at least to Victor--and giving it to him.
“Hmm,” he said looking from one to the other. “Nope, not gonna get these straight any time soon.”
Violet laughed. “Well, as you are not in charge of any gardens you don’t have to.”
“True. I think I like this Cory thing best. It’s very cheery I think. I’d like some in my garden.”
“I think you’re right. It is cheery,” she said placing the flowers they collected into the empty potato salad container. Victor had rinsed it out in the stream and filled it with fresh water. “I can plant some in the garden of your Manor home along with many other things. It’ll be fun picking stuff out for you, but of course, you’ll have to approve them first, Milord.”
“I think we can do that,” he replied, grinning. “Come sit and watch the sunset with me.”
“Sunsets in the spring are so lovely here,” she said sitting next to him on the blanket and looking toward the trees where the sky was turning pink with ribbons of violet and orange.
“I never saw a proper sunset until I came here. I love Catalpa Valley,” he said, looking at her more so than the sunset.
“Oh, how pretty!” she said as the sun vanished from sight and the sky darkened.
“Beautiful,” he replied, now completely ignoring the view.
“Well, it was a lovely day on Somerset Hill, Victor. Thank you so much,” Violet said, sighing sadly. “It’ll get dark now. I guess we’ll have to leave.”
“Well, I was actually hoping to stay out a little while, if you don’t mind. The sky is so clear and dark in Catalpa Valley, there should be a million stars out tonight. You did tell me Kenny and Richard liked to watch the stars,” he said giving her a hopeful smile. “Would you mind doing the same with me? There aren’t any stars to be seen in the city. Too much ambient light, you know.”
She giggled and shook her head. “No, I won’t mind at all. I’ll actually like it very much. Something else I haven’t done in a very long time.”
“Come lie down and watch for the first star. Then we have to make a wish,” he said.
“Oh, really?” she said staring at him as he lay back on the blanket making himself comfortable.
“Yes, the Lord of the Manor has spoken.”
She laughed. “Need I remind you, Sire, you don’t have a manor quite yet?” she said as she lay back too.
He waved an imperial hand. “I cannot be bothered with such trifling matters,” he said.
She laughed even harder and then he joined in, too and their laughter echoed over the rolling hills.
“Hush, you’re disturbing the night creatures,” she scolded.
“Me? You started it,” he said.
She giggled and playfully shoved him. “What a beautiful night. It seems like I haven’t done this in a million years,” she said.
Victor rolled over onto his side and looked down at her. “Seems to me you forgot to keep living when Richard died.”
“I may have,” she agreed. “Didn’t see the point.”
“Surely your kids gave you a reason,” he said, not unkindly.
She bit her lip as her eyes became blurry. “Kenny was already married and gone from home and Sophie soon followed going off to college, so far away.”
“But you have friends, many of them, and your brother and all his funny little kids and Laurie to keep you company,” he said.
“It didn’t feel right without Richard. No one knew what to say to me and they looked uncomfortable when I talked about him, especially Laurie. She didn’t say it, but I’m sure she was scared to death of something happening to Freddy. I was a reminder of what could happen to her. My talking about Richard just…well, I didn’t want to be a bother.”
“I very much doubt you ever were a bother to anyone,” he said fiercely. "Even Laurie. She adores you. they all do."
She shrugged and lapsed into silence for a few minutes. “It’s weird. I talk about Richard more in one day with you than I have all these years with anybody else. Doesn’t it bother you, too?” she said.
“Not at all,” he said shaking his head. “Why should it? Richard was an important part of you. It would be ridiculous for anyone to suggest you forget him completely. Does it bother you when I talk about my mother?”
“Of course not!”
“Well, then…I’ll allow you Richard just as long as you allow me my mother. Deal?”
She giggled. “Deal,” she said and they lapsed into silence again as the sky darkened around them. “I would’ve liked to have met your mother. She sounds nice.”
“She was an angel. I suppose that’s why she was called too soon. In my opinion, she never should have been taken at all. No offense to heaven and its occupants, but I think angels are needed here on earth,” he grumbled.
“I quite agree,” she replied, sadly. “Tell me what you miss most about her.”
He only had to think for a second. “She made my birthdays so special,” he said.
“Baked you a big chocolate cake, did she?”
Victor smiled but shook his head. “Better than that. She…Look! The first star! Quick, make a wish,” he said excitedly, grabbing her hand. “Make it a good one, baby!”
Violet giggled and looked toward his pointing finger. Sure enough it was the first star brightly twinkling against the black sheet which was a typical Catalpa Valley night.
“You sound like Sophie,” she said. "She loved making wishes."
“Shhh, I’m wishing,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze. “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish come true tonight. I wish…”
“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me what your wish is?” she said.
“You think I’m a novice at this?” he said, indignant. “I’m an excellent star wisher and follow all the rules…regardless of whether they ever come true.”
She laughed. “What was I thinking?”
“Have you made your wish?”
“Um…I can’t think of one,” she said, realizing with a jolt it was the first time she hadn’t made her usual wish…one of her three favorites…to have Richard back—a waste of a good wish by any standard—to have peace in this world—another useless wish—and to have a miracle happen regarding her mother. she had pretty much given up on that one too.
“Wish for what your heart most desires,” Victor said, giving her hand another squeeze.
Violet tried, but all she could come up with is…well, a wish for more days like this one.
“Did you make the wish?” he asked.
She turned her face to him and even in the dark she could make out his handsome features and his charming smile.
“I wish for…”
Victor placed two fingers over her lips and shook his head. “Hey! You’re not supposed to tell me,” he said. “It won’t come true.”
“I forgot, sorry,” she said. She felt a tingle as his fingers moved across her lips to her cheek and down to her shoulder.
“Poor little Violet. She simply doesn’t know the rules. Sophie and I will have to teach her proper wishing star etiquette or she’ll never have one come true.”
She giggled, but sobered quickly. “You made a wish come true today, one I didn’t even know I wished for,” she said before she could stop herself.
“I did?” he said, surprised. “How? What was it?”
She didn’t quite know how to put it in words.
“Tell him how much better your life has been with him in it. Tell him how grateful you are for all he does for you. Tell him how much you care about him. Tell him what he means to you,” Heidi suggested.
Violet’s heart gave a little jump. She simply could not say all that. It would be completely misconstrued and he would think…No, she just couldn’t. “You’ve become a good friend, Victor. You…you understand my need to keep Richard with me… forever,” she whispered.
He forced a smile. Yes, of course. It would be that. “Anything to make my very own gardener happy. How else could she make a garden fit for the lord of the manor?”
“How else indeed?” she replied. “But before the garden, you’ll have to build the house.”
“I’ll get floor plans and such as soon as I can. You can help me pick just the right design. One person can’t do it all alone, you know. The Lord of the Manor needs input from his most trusted adviser. that would be you, Milady,” he said, chuckling. “This is going to be fun!”
Violet’s heart gave another leap. Victor expected her to help him pick out the actual home design, plus the tiles, rugs, paint colors and furnishings plus plan the garden, too?
Her head swam with the enormity of all this. How in the world were they going to convince Morris Kramer that they weren’t married, when they were surely acting as if they were?