Victor carefully weighed his words as he chewed a delicious piece of steak. All the while he watched Violet and her nervous fussing. She was already regretting her impulsive question. Well, he wasn’t going to make this easy for her.
“Let me see if I have this correctly,” he said, taking a sip from his wine glass. “You wish for me to tell you the story of Denise when just moments ago you told me it wasn’t any of your business. Is that right?”
“Well, I don’t expect you to kiss and tell, just…. Oh, forget it. We can speak of…uh… the weather or the state of the roads.”
He almost choked. “The state of the roads?” he said incredulously.
Violet grimaced. “Don’t mind me. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility again,” she said.
As Victor laughed, she glanced around the garden and her eyes landed on an unfamiliar plant. “Do you think someone here knows the name of that flower? You can ask them for me in Portuguese, okay?”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Victor said. “You asked about Denise and now I’m telling you.”
“Victor, please, I…” Violet said shaking her head.
“Shush and eat. I’m talking now and you’re listening,” he said. “Denise and I were dating when she was in college and me in law school. Casually for me, not so much for her it seems. Then I met her best friend, who happened to be my ex-wife and she stole me away from Denise.”
Violet gaped. “The bitch!” she said, before she could stop herself. Then she blushed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
Victor chuckled. “That is the general consensus about my ex-wife, then and now. Truthfully, Denise never had a chance with me, not a real one, so, I was ripe for the taking even for my...”
“Victor, why don’t you ever speak her name?” Violet interrupted.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“You always call her your ex-wife. You never say her name Denise mentioned a Catherine. I assume that’s your wife she was talking about, the one she hoped you were finally over.”
He stared at her for a bit. “Ex-wife. Yes… Catherine is her name,” he said reluctantly.
“Why didn’t you ever mention her name before? I only just noticed it, but you’ve spoken about her so often, yet you never told me her name… until now and only because I finally asked. Why not?”
Why indeed? He sighed and shook his head. “I…I suppose I didn’t want her tainting you in any way and you knowing her name would have done that.”
“Why would you say that?”
“My ex…Catherine has a way of…of ruining all I hold dear and I didn’t want her doing that to you.”
“How in the world could she do that? She doesn’t even know me,” she said.
“She does, Violet, and I didn’t want her to. I tried to keep you a secret.”
“So, how does she know me?” Violet asked.
“At the gala. She found out you were my date,” he said. ”She’s been mentioning you ever since.”
“Mentioning?” she said, apprehension running through her. “How?”
Victor grimaced. “Don’t make me tell you,” he moaned.
Her eyes widened. “Well, now you gotta!”
“She calls you my…” he closed his eyes and sighed, then continued. “My chippy.
“Not repeating it.”
“She doesn’t even know me and she…why would she say that?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Because you’re so much younger than I am,” Victor said.
Violet looked at him as if he was cracked in the head. “No I’m not,” she said.
Raising his eyebrows he said, “Are we talking in dog years perhaps?”
“Does that make a difference?”
“How old do you think I am?” she asked.
“I don’t think it. I know it, because you told me.”
“I did no such thing! I don’t have a problem telling you, but I know for a fact I never have,” she said, looking unusually haughty.
He smirked. “Not in actual numbers, that’s true, but you inadvertently gave me two clues which told me your exact age.”
“So, now you’re Monk, are you?” she said, glaring at him.
He grinned. “I suppose I am to an extent. Shall I tell you?”
“What for? I already know how old I am. I’m just not convinced you do.”
“I’ll prove it. You told me at what age you became pregnant with Kenny and you also told me how old he is. Two plus two, you know.”
“I’m a little bit older than four,” she grumbled. “Me and my big mouth.”
He laughed, but sobered quickly and took her hand. “It doesn’t matter to me, but I wonder if that may be the reason you don’t… you are reluctant to think of me as more than a friend?”
“I already told you. I’m married for life… to Richard,” she said, pulling her hand out of his grasp.
“And he was only a year or two older than you, not a whooping decade and a half like me.”
“So, how does your wife…wait, what did you say?”
“Whatever!” she shouted, gaping at him. “You are not that old!”
“Hmm, Mama told me otherwise,” he replied, watching her curiously. “So…what’s that expression mean, I wonder?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Why would I lie about something which might very well be the reason you won’t marry me?”
“Victor, will you ever stop with that?” she shrieked.
“Soon as you marry me, yes.”
Violet glared at him for a second then picked up fork and knife and started eating so fast Victor could only hope she didn’t choke.
“So…back to Denise,” he said. “When I met my ex…Catherine…I think I told you we met in the hospital where she worked. Remember?” He paused here and saw her nod, her mouth obviously too full to speak. “We hit it off instantly and…well, it got hot and heavy right away. I didn’t know Catherine and Denise even knew each other.”
Violet stopped eating and looked at him. It took her a while to chew and swallow before she spoke. “So, then it wasn’t…you know…that bad. I thought Catherine stabbed her best friend in the back and …but still…gees, if I knew Jocelyn was interested in some guy, even one I really liked, I just couldn’t bring myself to…I just couldn’t!”
Victor smiled. “The world would be a better place if there were more people like you.”
“Oh, shush!” she said.
“Anyway, I felt bad for Denise, but I fell hard for Catherine and…well, I’d like to think Catherine felt the same for me.”
“Of course she did!” Violet said.
He chuckled. “You know this how?”
“She married you, didn’t she?” she said rolling her eyes.
“Mm, but not enough to…anyway, when Catherine and I divorced, Denise was the first to…shall we say comfort me.”
“So, you started dating again? Even though you didn’t feel a connection the first time around?”
“I figured I might have made the wrong choice and if I had stayed with Denise…”
“But it didn’t work out the second time either. Why not? She really seemed so nice,” Violet said.
“I already told you, Violet. I was dating Denise and things were going fine. Not a great passion for me, but nice, and then I spotted you in the park that fateful day and I fell instantly for you, even harder and faster than I did with Catherine,” he said, taking her hand again and kissing it. “And that was and is my great passion.”
Violet melted quicker than the ice in her water glass.