Violet stared out the cab window, seeing nothing, not even the lights flashing before her eyes. Her thoughts troubled her. Victor’s last words still echoed in her head. Was she really in love with Victor as he had asserted? Was it truly just a matter of time before she ended up as his wife? Surely not! She promised herself and Richard she would be faithful until death do they part. She was Richard’s wife therefore forever.
“Until death, my dear,” Heidi said gently. “Not your death, just a death. In this case Richard’s death came much too early, but it came nonetheless. He is gone and parted from you forevermore. You do see that, don’t you?”
No, she really didn’t. No one understood it, but she could feel Richard around her at all times. In the grocery store, at the movies, at home while she read a book, while she baked cookies and as she lay in bed, she could feel him, really feel him there with her, even here in the cab. She felt sure she could reach out her hand and touch him.
Little did she know Richard was right there with her and he had his hand on her knee.
“See? She knows I’m here for her for as long as she wants me. That’s not my doing,” Richard triumphantly said.
“No, but you are just a ghost and she is not,” Heidi said to him before turning back to Violet and saying, “You only think you can touch him, but you can’t, not really. You must realize this.”
“No, I don’t,” she mumbled. ”I’m not in love.”
“Did you say something?” Victor asked.
Violet turned away from the window and stared through the dark at Victor. Her heart skipped a beat when he smiled at her, but that didn’t mean anything. Even with that little bit of light from the lamp posts they passed she could see he was extremely handsome, as good to look at as that fateful day they met. She most certainly wasn’t the first woman to get all…stirred up by a pretty face, especially his, being it was attached to a rather pleasing body. It was purely human nature…not love!
Then he reached out, touched her hand and wrapped his long fingers around hers. Warmth spread through her being with this gesture. That didn’t mean anything either, though. She was chilled by the air conditioning in the car and he had a warm touch. Hadn’t she read somewhere that a man’s touch always raised a woman’s body temperature? Again that was human nature. That didn’t mean they were all in love. How ridiculous was that?
“Anything wrong, my love?” he asked.
A funny little flutter in the pit of her stomach was her answer. She shook her head and turned her gaze away again.
“I’m not in love,” she whispered to the glass.
In a minute, the cab pulled over to the side of the road, Victor paid the man and they alighted onto the sidewalk.
Violet looked around and didn’t like what she saw. “Are you taking me to an illegal cock fight?” she asked.
“What???” Victor said. “Why would you say that?”
“This looks like the seedy part of town, the exact place for such activity,” she nervously muttered.
“You are something,” he said. “I would never go to one myself let alone take you to see one. What kind of madman do you think I am?”
“Really want me to answer that?” she retorted.
He laughed. “This is part of Harlem, so it’s not so grand… yet. It’s coming back though, to its former Glory. You’ll see. It’s not so great on the outside but inside…I think you’ll like this and there are several people I want you to meet.”
She groaned. More people who will believe her to be in love when she was most definitely not! But she had to pretend she was, didn’t she?
“Yes, you do,” Heidi said. “You promised.”
Violet braced herself and allowed Victor to lead her down a dark flight of stairs to a nondescript door seemingly leading into a dank basement. Upon opening the door, however, piano music and dim yet colorful lights, the tinkling of glasses, laughter and a beautiful, rich voice all assailed their senses.
“Wow,” Violet said.
“Welcome, Violet, to Club Portier,” Victor said.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s any farm animals in here,” she said, smiling brightly.
“Of course not,” he laughed.
“Jocelyn would love this,” Violet gushed. ”She loves jazz piano.”
“I was hoping so and as you will soon see…”
The shout made them turn in time to watch a lovely and very tall, dark skinned young woman come running toward them.
“We thought you’d never get here,” she said, throwing her arms around him, hugging him tightly and dropping a kiss on his cheek. “Happy birthday!”
“Thanks, Jolene, but how did you know I was coming at all?” Victor said.
“Your friends told us,” she said, pointing to a table close to the stage. “We have a birthday cake and everything for you. This is your night.”
Sure enough, Bret and Eliza were at the table as expected, but so were several other couples.
“I’m going to kill them,” Victor muttered.
“No, you won’t,” Jolene said. “Daddy’s gonna kill you first. Why didn’t you tell us you were engaged? How can you keep something like that from him? He’s your best friend!”
“Uh…that…that was my fault,” Violet piped in. “I didn’t want it announced quite yet.”
Jolene gave her a dazzling smile. “Too late!” she said with a laugh. “Come and sit, meet everyone. We’re all dying to finally know you!”
“In a bit, Honey,” Victor said. “I want a word with Violet.”
“Don’t be too long, Uncle Victor,” she scolded. “We’ve waited long enough.”
They watched Jolene go to the table and say, “They’re here!”
“I think you’re getting a birthday party whether you want one or not,” Violet said seeing every eye in the room turn their way.
“I think it’s more like an engagement party,” Victor replied, with a crease about his brow. “I’m sorry, Violet. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Violet looked up at him and saw quite plainly that he meant it. That made all the difference.
She smiled and shrugged. “Oh, well,” she said linking her fingers with his.
Victor smiled. “You are wonderful. I’m so lucky you’re in my life,” he said and unable or willing to stop himself, he kissed her. He lingered only long enough to render Violet a bit dazed, but admittedly, that didn’t take much.
“I love you dearly,” he whispered, lifting her hand and kissing it.
She opened her mouth to speak, then shut it again. What was she thinking? There was nothing to say in reply to that except…and she didn’t. No, sirree, she did not love him dearly or any other way!
“Not even a tiny bit?” Heidi asked, a coy little smile playing around her glossy pink lips.
Violet ignored this and allowed Victor to escort her across the room and to her supposed doom.
There she met more people than Violet could possibly keep straight. All the while one thought echoed in her head.
“I’m not in love with Victor, because I'm still in love with Richard…I’m just not in love…I’m not in love…”