“Are you certain you’re awake enough to drive?” Violet asked.
He laughed. “I’m quite awake now, and starved. You hungry? I could really eat,” he said, starting the truck and heading out. “Want to grab something at the diner?”
“A bit late to be eating, don’t you think? Besides, every place is closed now. We’re not in the city that never sleeps, you know.”
“Yes, I always forget that. I can’t get a bagel at three in the morning here,” he said sadly.
“Goodness! Why would you want to?”she said, aghast at the absurd idea.
He laughed. “I think it’s just the point of be able to if you wished.”
“Hmm, good for pregnant cravings, I guess, and putting on extra pounds,” she said, making a funny face.
“True. My ex used to crave moo shoo pork and usually after midnight,” Victor replied with a chuckle. “Funny, the things you remember.”
Violet giggled. “That is funny. With Kenny I craved cheesy nachos and with Sophie…”
“Pineapple, you told me once.”
“Oh, Dory, how soon we forget,” he said. “There has to be some place still open. I’m starved!”
“I can make you a sandwich at home,” she said.
“You would do that for me?”
“Well, why not?”
“I thought you’d be tired,” he said, pausing at the end of the dirt road and looking either way. “We turn left here, don’t we?”
“Right,” she said with a nod.
“Right? Are you sure?”
“No, silly, I meant correct, it’s a left.”
“How can I be tired? We slept for more than an hour,” she said before she could stop herself.
“Wait, you were sleeping too? You didn’t say that?”
She made a grumpy face. “Oh, you shut up or I won’t feed you!”
He burst out laughing.
“There ya go, Sweetie” Violet said cheerfully, placing Calendula’s bowl down on the floor mat for her after getting home and heading straight for the kitchen. “Now I’ll feed Victor.”
Victor was too busy stroking the cat and Calendula enjoying the attention to care about all the noise Violet was making. Banging pots, slamming cabinet doors and dishes clinked as she whirled around creating a masterpiece.
“A better Panini you can’t find anywhere…at this hour of night in Catalpa Valley, anyway,” she said several minutes later.
“Violet, you’re the best,” he said, dropping the cat to the floor and going for the plate.
Violet pulled it away again.
“What? You wanna share?” he said, still reaching for it.
“You were just petting the cat. Go wash your hands! I don’t think your mama would approve of her son acting like a Neanderthal,” she said, sternly.
“Too right, she wouldn’t!” Heidi concurred.
He chuckled as he washed his hands. He dried them then held them up for inspection. “Now can I eat, Mama? I’m so hungry!”
“Silly man!” she said and gave up the plate.
She turned to clean the counters and put and bread and sandwich fixings away, but at every turn she found Victor in the way.
“Déjà vu all over again,” she muttered.
“What?” he said with his mouth full.
“Your mama would disapprove of that too,” Violet said, moving around him to get to the refrigerator.
Upon turning back to the counter, Victor was once again in her way. She gave him a stern look. “There’s this new invention, Victor, have you heard? It’s called a table and chairs. People use to it to sit and eat and to get out of the way of the busy cook!”
He chuckled and continued leaning against the counter taking a huge bite.
“Incorrigible,” she muttered, turning to the sink and filling it up with hot water. “You know that old show, Seinfeld?”
“Who doesn’t? It was required viewing if you’re a New Yorker. I knew so many people exactly like some of those characters. Pathetic and scary,” he said between bites.
She grinned. “Yes, so do I. As a matter of fact, you remind me of one in particular. Guess which one.”
Victor grimaced. “Please, don’t say George! He’s such a weasel,” he whined.
She giggled and turned off the water. She picked up a hand-crocheted dishcloth and started washing. “No, I was thinking of the one played by Judge Reinhold. Remember him? The close talker? He always got in everyone’s face. He had no notion of personal space. That’s you,” she said, a triumphant smirk on her face.
To her astonishment Victor put his face right into hers, actually pressing her nose with his. “You mean like this?” he said, grinning.
She gasped and pulled back a few inches until she could focus her eyes on his smiling face. Goodness, but he was gorgeous! And this close, he was good enough to eat and…
“Close enough to kiss him?” Heidi suggested.
Yes, even that, especially that. Violet suddenly recalled in vivid detail how it felt to be kissed by him. Returning the favor, he called it. At the time she called it a mere nothing, a fleeting touching of lips, insignificant and …but she knew better, didn’t she? Only in her heart of hearts could she admit what it truly was…fantastic, shockingly so.
And today? Oh, she hadn’t realized it at the time. It had been too perfect a day, but thinking on it now, with a clear mind, she knew how wonderful it was to spend an entire day with someone who allowed her to be herself, who made her laugh, who made her want to sing, who liked her for what she was and not what they wished her to be and one who let her have her precious memories of Somerset Hill and Richard.
She also knew how amazing it felt to sleep cradled in Victor’s strong arms, to be curled up beside him, warm and safe from all harm, and hear his steady breath in her ear, the way he nuzzled into her neck sending delightful tingles everywhere and...
Her heart jumped. No wonder she slept so soundly! It was the best she’d slept since Richard died. It was like being with Richard…only not.
Dear God! Was she falling in love with Victor?
And now Victor wanted her to help him pick out a house design for himself…or was it for her? He couldn’t possibly know that he would be giving her a most treasured desire, her wish for a Tudor home at Somerset Hill. He even offered to build the house for her, and knowing him like she did, she knew he meant it! Why would he want to fulfill her dream? Unless…
Was Victor in love with her?
Violet stared up and him as he took the last bite of the sandwich and tried to picture Richard, but she couldn’t do it. She was forgetting Richard!
“No, dear, not forgetting, never forgetting. You’re just in the process of moving on,” Heidi gently said.
But Violet didn’t want to move on! Her heart pounding dangerously loud in her own ears, she stepped back horror-struck by this realization. The dripping water from the dishcloth in her hand was a mere nothing compared to this terrible betrayal of all she held dear. She had forgotten her wonderful husband and betrayed him by falling for another. How could she have allowed this to happen?
Completely oblivious to the turmoil within Violet, Victor smiled and patted his contented stomach.
“Violet, you do love me. That was the best sand…”
“I most certainly do not!” she shouted.
He stared at her as he wiped his hands on a cloth napkin. “I’m kidding, Sweetie.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Violet, what’s wrong? Hey, you’re dripping water everywhere. Give me that,” he said reaching for the dishcloth.
She pulled back spilling more water across her shoes and onto the clean tile floor.
“You have to go,” she said in a shaky voice. Why wouldn’t it be shaky? Her entire body shook with fear.
“What the hell is she afraid of?” Richard asked, watching the scene in dismay.
“Of herself,” Heidi replied with a sigh.
“Violet, I was just playing, teasing you, that’s all. You know that, don’t you?” Victor said, but it was clear to him she didn’t. The abject terror on her face cut him to the core. He took a tentative step toward her and she took two back.
“Violet, you…you’re not still thinking I’m an axe murderer, are you? After all this time, you still don’t trust me?” he said incredulous and obviously hurt.
Violet felt the sting of tears behind her eyes, but she wouldn’t allow his sad face to influence her. She had to get away from him, permanently. “It’s late. You gotta go,” she said, dropping the dishcloth onto the counter and leaving the kitchen.
“Violet, I won’t leave you until you tell me what’s wrong. What did I do?” he said following her to the front door.
“What you did?” she shrieked, her hand on the doorknob. “What haven’t you done? You’ve forced your way into my life, turned it upside down and then you think you can just…”
Stunned and confounded, Victor stood rigid. “What? What did I do?”
“Go!” she shouted.
He would’ve stayed had it not been for the quiet voices in his head urging him to do Violet's bidding.
“You must go, dear. Violet will have to work this out on her own. You staying will only cause her more agitation. Go,” Heidi whispered.
“You didn’t do anything wrong, Cowboy. It’s just…girls are funny,” Richard said.
Victor took a step toward the door, turned and looked at Violet for what might very well be the last time. “I had a wonderful time today. Thank you for sharing with me a bit of your life and all those lovely memories. Thank you for the sandwich, too. I’ll cherish our time together forever. I wish you well.Good-bye, Violet. ”
He closed the door and was gone.