Victor tried as hard as he could to get his mind around what Violet just disclosed. His brain obviously was still half asleep, because he was getting no help.
“Violet,” he said, tentative as you can get. “Violet, are you trying to tell me Richard is… is haunting you?”
She bit her lip again and took a deep breath.
“I…No…I don’t think so. Not really. It’s more like…” She looked around as if hoping to find the words written out for her on the walls. She then placed her fist on her chest over her heart.
“I still feel him around me and inside me, Victor. I know it’s crazy, but I swear he’s here. Richard’s always with me. He comes to me all the time. When I’m alone at home. He talks to me at the department store and the supermarket and the post office and at work. He tells me when to pay the bills, cuz he knows I always forget. He…he even comes to me in my…when I sleep. He spends the night with me… he holds me and it’s almost like he’s not really gone. It’s only in the morning when I wake up that I realize…but even then I can hear him whisper my name and say, “Good morning, sleepy head” just like he used to. Even when I’m with you, I feel him near me and I don’t think…I think…”
Sounds like haunting, thought Victor, but he kept this to himself.
Sounds like haunting, thought Victor, but he kept this to himself.
Violet shook her head slightly and looked up at the ceiling for a moment. “Richard’s not happy that you’re in my life now. I mean I think he understands it and he’s okay with it…to a point. I think he resents that you’re alive and he’s not…at least I think that’s why he gets upset. He mustn’t like it that I…that I like you so much, that we get along so well. Maybe he’s jealous and thinks I don’t love him anymore, which is so stupid of him! He should know I’ll always love him no matter what. I have no choice on that. But it does make me feel guilty when I do that to him. I don’t want him to feel bad or jealous when I have a great time with you. And I always have a wonderful time with you, Victor.”
She stopped and put her hand over her mouth as tears dropped from her eyes again. “I’m not saying I want it to stop--you and me—I don’t, but I’ll understand if you…if you choose to step away because …because of Richard, because he’s still with me. Especially now that you must think I’m nutty as a fruit cake you may want to just…give up on me.”
Victor stared incredulously. He couldn’t believe his ears.
A ghost? Richard’s ghost here? I was just what Simon and Ronnie had told him.
So, his sons had been right? A jealous ghost stood in his way of happiness? Richard’s ghost or spirit or whatever was holding Violet captive, was causing her endless guilt which in turn made her keep Victor at a safe distance? How ridiculous was that!
He didn’t believe it for a minute, but it didn’t matter a whit if he believed. It only mattered that Violet did. And she obviously believed in ghosts, wholeheartedly. She even imagined them snuggling with her in bed. No wonder she didn't want him. She still was married, exactly as she had been purporting. How the hell do you fight that?
He took in a deep breath and let it back out very slowly. “Well, then,” he said, searching his brain for something to say, anything which did make sense. Nothing came to him.
“What are you thinking?” Violet nervously asked.
“I…I think…I think we should have breakfast. It’s getting cold,” he said.
“Did you not hear me?” Violet asked, half annoyed, half anxious.
“My love, I have perfect hearing and I make it a habit to listen to every fascinating word which comes from your sweet lips.”
As he spoke he lifted a silver dome off a platter of chocolate covered strawberries which were each the size of a plum. He picked one and held it to Violet’s lips.
She sighed and bit into it, taking only half. She watched him eat the rest and he picked up another one, but she pushed that one away.
“Victor, tell me what you’re thinking,” she pleaded.
“I think strawberries are better plain and the ones out of your garden are far superior to these,” he replied.
“Leave it, Violet. I don’t want to talk about it. Not now. Let me… let me pretend for the rest of my birthday weekend that all is exactly as I wish it. Please, Violet. Just give me that,” he said, bringing the strawberry to her lips. She bit into it and again he took the rest. Then he kissed her with a fierce passion he’d never felt before.
God help him, but he couldn’t lose her. Not now that he’d come so close to perfection, to having it all. She was his now, not some stupid imaginary guilt-tripping ghost husband’s. Richard had her once, but he was gone. Now it was Victor’s turn.
“Victor…” she whispered, breathless and aching with longing.
“I love you, Violet. Nothing’s changing that. I’ve waited too long for you to give up now.”
“But if I can’t marry you, it’s not fair to you,” she said.
“Let me decide what’s fair. I’ll take you any way I can have you. Any way you’ll let me. You call the shots. You say jump and I’ll say how high. Just don’t think for a second that I’m letting you go. I’d sooner chop off my own head.”
She half laughed, half cried as she stroked his cheek. “It’s such a nice head with a pretty face. I think you better keep it where it is. Okay?”
“Anything you say, my love,” he whispered and he pulled her into his arms holding her close, as close as he could without breaking her. As if hoping he could physically keep anything and everything--real or imagined—from coming between them he held her tighter still.
“Victor,” Violet squeaked. “I can’t breathe too good.”
“Oh, baby, I’m sorry!” he said, releasing her and touching her cheek. “You okay now?”
She nodded and they simply looked at each other for several minutes. She was the first to break the silence.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked.
“The statue of liberty?” he replied, not quite joking.
She giggled. “No, I mean…what are we to do now?”
He smiled. “We can make out like teenagers,” he suggested.
She laughed and hugged him. Then she gave him a tiny kiss and said, “Suppose we could, but it’s your birthday. Shouldn’t we do something exciting?”
“Believe me. Making out like teenagers with you would get me excited,” he insisted.
She covered her face with her hands and laughed. “Silly man,” she said, as her smile faded. “Now I feel guilty again. Not giving you what you want.”
“Eventually you will, so stop with the guilt. We’re engaged now and soon…one day, your ghost will tire of this half-life and…he’ll move on,” he said, taking her hand and kissing his mother’s ring.
He grimaced and shook his head, knowing precisely what was coming. She was about to drop the other shoe right on his heart. “You want your wedding ring back where it belongs, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But if I go home and everyone sees my wedding band gone and this in its place and they find out …omigosh!”
Victor frowned as he watched her eyes fill with horror. “What’s wrong?”
“It is. So what?”
“I’ll miss church.”
“Violet, you won’t burn in hell for missing one day of church, but if you insist on going, there are only several dozen we can go to right here in the city. We can even go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral if you like.”
“No, it’s not that. Freddy will wonder where I am. He’ll assume I’m sick and then he’ll go to my house and check on me and when he finds me gone and my car still there he’ll think…”
“That you’re with me,” Victor finished for her.
“You told him?” she shrieked. “You told him we were going away together for the weekend?”
“No, but it’s a natural conclusion. He knows we spend a good deal of time together.”
“Does he think we’re…omigosh!”
“What? He knows we’re friends, just friends. He won’t think anything else. I’m sure of it. He knows you, Violet.”
She covered her face with her hands. Victor could feel her quaking on his lap.
“Sweetheart, what is wrong? Freddy won’t…”
“No, but Jocelyn and Laurie and…oh, all my friends and everyone at church and in town and…”
“You have to stop this, Violet!” he said, getting angry now. “It’s just talk and it means nothing. It’s just what bored people do to relieve boredom in their boring lives. Don’t worry about it.”
“You don’t know what it’s like. The talk, the smears, the innuendo. Of course, she’s a slut, she comes from that crazy family…oh, it’s going to start all over again!” she muttered into her hands.
“All over again? This happened before?” he asked, but then it came to him. “It was when you were in high school…when Richard got you pregnant…out of wedlock.”
“Uh…yes. That… that’s it,” she said, wringing her hands. She stood up and moved away from him.
Victor could tell there was something she wasn’t telling him. There seemed to be more than a ghost between them suddenly. What it was he couldn’t imagine, but he’d have to set that aside for now.
First thing’s first. Where could he get the number of a good exorcist?