“Victor, have you completely lost your marbles?” Violet said.
“No,” he said, chuckling. “Just partially.”
“Mm-hmm,” she said just as the Ferris wheel stopped and the operator went to open the latch to let them out.
Victor held out a fifty dollar bill and gave a little nod and the man, his eyes popping, closed it up again, snatched the money and sent them back up.
“What in the world…”
“I like it up here. Don’t you? I thought we'd ride some more.”
“Uh…okay,” she said, watching him curiously. “Are you feeling all right?”
“Grand,” he replied, looking at the sky waiting for the first star to show itself.
He smiled, but remained silent. He was too busy listening to the voice in his head.
“You gotta shut up now so he can tell her everything,” Richard said.
“I want to make sure he gets it all,” Heidi retorted. “I want him to do it right for Violet as well as himself. This is his birthday wish, you know.”
“Victor?” Violet said, touching his hand.
“Watch for the first star, okay? Wanna make a wish.”
“Is that why you had the man send us back around? You wanted to get closer to the stars?” she said, giggling.
“Something like that,” he said, taking her hand in his. “May I tell you how we used to spend my birthdays?”
“I wish you would,” she said.
“No wishing allowed before you see the first star,” he said.
She laughed. “Sorry, I forgot.”
He waited another moment and took a deep breath. “I spoiled my mama. At least she always said I did. God, I miss those times. These past four years… they sucked! Especially on my birthday.”
Violet bit her lip and placed her other hand on top of his. “But you had the boys. Surely they made your birthdays special?”
He shook his head. “They knew that day was for my mother.”
“But after she died…”
“I always made some excuse to avoid even thinking of it. I usually worked. It was easier than…”
“Oh, Victor,” Violet said. “Your mother wouldn’t want you to forget your own birthday simply because she isn’t here to celebrate it with you.”
“True, but it just didn’t feel right without her around.”
“Well, this year will be different. We'll make it so you know her heart will go on. I’ll bake you a cake and we can have your boys come and…”
“I wish I could have a birthday like we used to have,” he said pointing to the first star.
“You silly goose! You’re not supposed to…”
“The star won’t make it come true. Only you can, Violet,” he said.
“I know this is going to sound nuts, but hear me out before you say anything.”
“Okay,” she said, frowning slightly.
“Since my mother is no longer with us, I thought about getting a substitute.”
“A mama substitute?”
“Exactly and I’m hoping that would be you,” he said.
“Listen first, please,” he earnestly said. “We could do everything the same as I used to do with my mother. We’d get a suite in the city, a full day at the spa, shopping for clothes and shoes and jewelry, too. My Mama loved her jewelry and dining at her favorite restaurant, a carriage ride through the park and a play or musical.”
Violet’s eyes widened in astonishment. “You did all that with your mother…for your birthday?”
“Well, the spa she did on her own, without me. Won’t catch me in one of those places, except to buy gift certificates for friends. She often took friends along though. You could take Jocelyn with you or Laurie. I’ll pay for all three of you. You’ll have a blast, just like my mother used to. But that’s only on the first day.”
“First day?” Violet shrieked.
“It usually was a three or four day weekend for us, but if you can’t get off work… but I’m certain you can. We’re talking August and that’s far off still. With enough notice they won’t mind and if I give another generous donation of trees or something...”
“But, Victor, how in the world is a day at a spa with my friends and shopping a birthday gift to you? This is lunacy!”
“It’s not, not really. I loved spoiling my mama. It gave me such a thrill to see her happy. She knew then how much I loved and appreciated her.”
Violet gaped at him. “I don’t even want to ask what you used to do for her birthday, or even for Mother’s day!”
He laughed. “More of the same, only better. I’ll tell ya, she loved that, too,” he said.
“Violet, it’ll be almost like I’m doing for my mama again. I have told you before that you remind me very much of her, you know. She would have loved you. What do you say? Can I have my special birthday weekend?”
She stared at him, slowly shaking her head in wonder. “Victor Romanoff, you are one funny, strange man, but also the sweetest in the world. I may regret this but…okay. I’ll be your Mama substitute for your birthday.”
“Woo-hoo!” he shouted, his arms shooting straight up into the air. “I’m the king of the world!”
“Take it down a notch, Leonardo!” she said, rolling her eyes at him until he brought down his arms around her, pulled her close and kissed her, slowly and very well.
After she was thoroughly dazed, he pulled away from her and smiled. “Your buddy's back,” he said.
“Huh?” she said.
“Your dearly John Yearly.” He pointed down to the ground where indeed John stood glaring at them as they slowly revolved.
“I thought he needed another hint. Think he gets it now?” Victor asked.
She giggled, then leaned her head on his shoulder and snuggled closer. “He should now. Thank you, Victor. You’re a life saver.”
“Cherry flavored?” he asked, smirking.
She laughed and took his face in her hands kissing him again. “No, pineapple.”
You should have seen the look on John’s face. Priceless!