Monday, January 30, 2012

Chapter 99: Free at last! by Glory Lennon

Richard had no idea so many people would be at the dedication. Practically the whole town showed up! There were people who knew him, at least by sight or by name, others were bowing acquaintances and most were good friends of his, but surely they had better things to do on such a nice spring day than stand around to listen to Jason Garretty, their local representative in government and all-around loud-mouthed show-off, speak Richard’s praises.

It was both embarrassing and humbling. Not that Richard thought much of the entire thing. It was rather a silly thing for the town to spend money on, in his opinion. Of course, as he found out from Freddy, most of the money came from Victor. He supposed that rich dude could afford it, so he didn’t feel so bad about it.
But really, a gazebo? What good were gazebos anyway? Especially where they placed it, right out in front of the park by the road, it made little sense. No one could sit there and see any of the baseball, soccer or football games being played out on the various fields nor could parents or grandparents watch their kids on the swings or jungle gym from there.

Richard supposed it was only good for getting out of the sun for a few moments or for teenagers who wished to get away from certain people, namely their parents. Richard couldn’t understand why Violet went to so much trouble planting a garden around it. He was certain both little kids and careless adults would trample the flowers into the dirt. 

He told Violet all this while she steadfastly planted each Daisy and Foxglove, every columbine and Hosta and lovingly placed all those purple coneflowers—his personal favorites—in large drifts and edged the entire bed with Catnip. The neighborhood strays would have a field day rolling around in that intoxicating stuff. He had to admit it was pretty, but then, everything Violet did, by way of the garden, was magic.

As Jason Garretty droned on, putting most people to sleep, Richard stood behind Violet, his hands on her shoulders. He caught Jimmy and Molly smiling at him and put a finger to his lips.

“Don’t tell anyone you can see me, okay?” he said and he watched them nod.

Harder to reason with were the other kids present, especially the little girl who he died saving, Emily. She enthusiastically waved at him, beaming. Violet thought she was waving at her so she waved and smiled back even though she had no clue who Emily was. 

Richard was so proud of Violet. She hadn’t shed a tear the whole time. She looked a bit somber, of course, but that was to be expected. What he hadn’t counted on was everyone coming up to her afterwards and offering their condolences. It was the funeral all over again! That was the worst part and almost was the undoing of Violet’s perfect composure.

Ed Ballucci was there with Mary Teresa and their huge clan. He wiped his eyes surreptitiously and bear-hugged Violet until it looked like she might snap.

“Richie will never be forgotten, Violet. You can count on that,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Call us if you need anything, ya hear?”

“Thank you, Eddie,” Violet said, tears sparkling in her hazel eyes.

As most people drifted off for late-starting baseball games and Pee-wee football sign-ups, Violet stood alone staring at her little garden. Freddy and Laurie had asked her to come over to spend the day with them, but she declined. When John Yearly approached, she suddenly wished she had gone with them.

“Hello, John,” she said, stiffly, turning back to the pansies she added at the last minute, a gift from Weston Botanical.

“Nice turn out. Rich was really liked,” he said, a slightly resentful note in his voice.

“That happens when you’re a good man,” Violet said, not caring that she sounded proud and faithful to the last.

“So, where’s your lawyer boyfriend? Thought he’d be here for this. A decent man would be here for you,” John said and there was definitely a look of sour grapes on his face which even Violet could not ignore.

She sighed, debated for a moment and then shook her head. “I lied to you, John,” she said reluctantly.

“About what?”

“Victor is not my boyfriend,” she said. To her surprise he looked horrified by this statement. 

“You’re engaged?” he said.

“Engaged? Heavens no!” she shouted. “How could you even think that?”

“Well…it’s the only thing left,” John said.

“Really? The only thing?” she said, her hand itching to smack him. “We’re not dating. We were just pretending.”

“Excuse me?” he said, incredulous.

Violet sighed again, closing her eyes for a moment. “I asked Victor to…to pretend to be my boyfriend whenever someone looked interested in asking me out on a date, like you and…others. It was just a ruse, because…well, I don’t want to date, not now, not ever, and this was the only thing I could think of to discourage all of you.”

“You’re kidding, right?” he said, smirking.

“No, I’m not. It was cowardly, I know now and I'm sorry. Victor’s just a friend,” she said.

John stared for a moment, then laughed. “Yeah, right," he said, an unpleasant smirk on his face. "You forget, Violet, I saw you at the carnival with him. He was all over you. If that’s a friend, then it’s one with benefits.”

Now she really did slap him, and none too gently either. There was no telling who was more shocked by this action, Violet or John.

“How dare you! If you knew me at all you would know how…how ridiculous that is. But then you always believed those rumors about me back in high school, didn’t you? Or maybe you even started them. I wouldn’t put it past you. Any girl that dared deny you a date or a romp in the hay was instantly labeled a lesbian or worse, wasn’t she?”

He gaped at her, his hand on his cheek where she hit him. “I…I…I never did that to you. You were Richie’s girl. Everyone knew that. I was just…”

“Wishing I would cheat on him with you?” she said, her eyes mere slits in her face, she was so angry.

“No! No, Violet really. If that’s all it is then…then we can be friends, too.”

“What?” she said, startled.

“Like you just said. We can go out to a movie and dinner and we can just make-believe. You don’t need that bozo lawyer. I could pretend with you,” he said, dropping his hand and smiling.

“Now you have to be kidding!” she shrieked.

“No, it’ll be fine, you and me…just friends, just like you and that lawyer guy. Whaddaya say, Violet?”

“What do I say?” she mumbled, equally stunned and ticked off. “I say, John, that I know perfectly well that you would not be satisfied with being just friends.”

“Course we can!” he said, semi-desperately. “We can hangout and be only friends just like with that stupid lawyer. Only it’ll be better ‘cause we really are friends.”

“We are? News to me!” she shrieked. “We were never friends, not back in school and never in my adult life. And you know what else? If I never see you again, it’ll be too soon! Goodbye, Dearly John Yearly!”  

 And with that, she spun on her heel and stomped away. 

Breathing hard and flustered at her own daring, she sat in her car, wondering what had gotten into her. Never in her life had she ever done that, spoken in such a way. She’d just said what she’d been dying to tell that beastly man for decades. She actually hit him, too! Had she lost her mind completely?

No, not quite. Richard was the one egging her on and telling her exactly what to say. He even suggested she smack him and, so, she did. 

He laughed uproariously as he sat beside her. “You did great, Honey. You told the full out truth. You said exactly what you’ve been dying to say to that jerk. It needed to be said a long time ago, but now is good, too. It’s about time you stood up for yourself. He’ll never bother you again and he's probably scared you might hit him again. That was one great smack!” he said, laughing his head off. “Now, let’s go home and celebrate.”

“Celebrate?” she mumbled, her hand still on her pounding heart. “But…Richard…”

“Believe me,” Richard said, his laughter subsiding. “He’s thrilled for you right now. He knows no one will ever walk all over you again. He wants you to be happy, Violet, really happy. He wants you to be free.”

“Free…from what?” Violet asked.

Richard scratched his head and frowned. He didn’t really know.

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