“We need to make plans,” Violet said, carefully placing a dress on a hanger and then storing it in her newly emptied closet.
Victor’s heart skipped a beat. “I agree,” he said, with infinite effort to remain calm. “I was thinking of a June wedding, perhaps at Weston Botanical Gardens. I’m sure Walter would deny me nothing after the last donation I made, but I really don’t want to wait that long.”
“What in the world…Victor,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I meant for the labor day party, you big goof!”
“Yeah…I knew that,” he said, visibly deflated and unable to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
“Oh, Victor,” she said, putting her hand on his cheek. “Do I have to say it again?”
“Why bother? I’ll never understand this ghost thing of yours,” he said, in a peevish voice. “I mean…is he here?”
“What?” she distractedly said, taking another dress, shaking it out and hanging it up in the closet.
“Is he here?” he repeated.
“Alfred Hitchcock,” he said, sarcastically.
“What?” she said, now utterly confused.
“Do you have more than one ghost?”
“Ghost? Are you making fun of me?”
He sighed. “I honestly want to know how this ghost thing works. Is Richard’s ghost here, right now, watching us?”
“Uh…no, I don’t think so,” she said.
She looked around the room as if looking for him. “Well, no,” she replied, frowning slightly.
“Can you conjure him up when you want to?”
She gave him a dirty look. “Do I look like a witch?”
“Actually, it would be a medium who conjures up ghosts …assuming you believe in such hokum,” he said, handing another hanger to her. “But what I mean is can you call for him and make him show up?”
“It’s not like that!” she said, snatching the hanger from him with undue force.
“Then explain to me exactly how it is,” he said.
“I…I don’t know. It’s just… I don’t actually see him… unless I’m sleeping.”
“What makes you think it’s not just a dream?”
“I know the difference. I just …I feel him around me sometimes.”
Victor took his favorite dress out of the suitcase and grinned remembering how good she looked modeling it.
Violet saw that unnerving grin and took the dress out of his hands. “Wish you hadn’t gotten this thing. Where the heck am I to wear this in Catalpa Valley? Where I would fit in, I mean. I don’t visit brothels, after all!”
“There’s a nice one down in East Meredith,” he said following her to the closet with a devilish grin on his face.
She spun around and gasped. “You’ve been to a brothel?” she shrieked.
He burst out laughing. “I’m kidding, honey.”
“Which part? That there’s a cat house in East Meredith or that you’ve been there?”
“I don’t even know if there really is one there,” he said. “And you should know I don’t need to go to that kind of place for female companionship.”
She turned her back on him when she felt her cheeks glowing pink. She seriously didn’t want to know about that.
“So…” he said, taking the sexy dress out of her hands and looking at it again. “When are you going to wear this for me?”
“For you! I most certainly won’t be wearing this for you!” she huffed.
“You’re going to wear it for your ghost husband?”
“Honestly!” she huffed.
“I know he’d like it,” Victor muttered. “Fine, then if not for me nor your ghost, where can we go so you can wear it for the rest of the world?”
“Didn’t you just hear me? There’s nowhere to wear this… this scandalous thing…not in Catalpa Valley anyway. I'd have to go somewhere where nobody knows me.”
“I’m thinking road trip then,” he said, still looking at the dress.
She snatched it out of his hands and stuffed it way back in the closet, behind the clothes she’s likely never to wear again but refused to part with for sentimental reasons. Included in that were her yellowing wedding dress and a couple of her favorite maternity dresses.
He chuckled and placed his hands around her tiny waist, imagining her already wearing the sexy outfit. He then nuzzled his face in her hair and kissed her neck.
“What…what are you doing?” she said, as her heart gave a grand leap.
“Well, you said Richard’s not here, right?”
“Um…no, I…don’t think so.”
“So… he won’t mind if I do this.”
Victor turned her around and kissed her senseless. Violet moaned in delight and melted. He lifted her right off her feet as he backed out of the closet. It wasn’t until he let her down onto the bed and lay beside her--caressing and kissing her-- that she heard it; a pained moan from another world.
“Violet, not in our bed,” Richard groaned. “For the love of all that is good and holy…not here.”
“Victor, please,” she said, pushing him back.
“We can’t,” she said. “It’s not right. Richard… we can’t.”
“But you said he wasn’t here.”
“Well…I was wrong. He’s definitely here now,” she said, scrambling off the bed and getting as much distance between her and Victor as was possible.
“Did he just show up now? Perhaps you can conjure him when you wish it, you’re just unwilling to admit it,” Victor said, just barely keeping his anger in check. “I don’t see him. I don’t feel him or anything. So, I wonder, you making this up, or just out and out lying to me?”
Hurt by the accusation and knowing he probably had a right to it, she shrugged. “You think I’m a tease and worse, a liar,” she said. “But, Victor, this is where…where we used to…sleep.”
He stared at her for a minute then said, “Any ghosts in Kenny’s room?”
“Walls don’t exist for spirits, Victor,” she whispered, looking down at her fidgeting hands.
“So, you’re saying the whole house is off limits?”
“No, I get it. He conveniently shows up whenever it’s getting good.”
“You don’t believe me.”
“I don’t believe in ghosts, period, Violet. I thought I made that clear.”
“I’m not quite certain that’s true, do you?” Heidi whispered in her ear.
Violet’s eyes widened. “Yet you talk to your mother,” she said, suddenly remembering when they first met.
“What?” he said.
“I made you pancakes that first day…”
“Waffles,” he corrected.
“Whatever!” she shouted. “You took one taste and you looked up to the ceiling and said, “Mama, you know I love you, but Violet’s waffles are better than yours,” or something like that. And that wasn’t the only time. You told me your mama was watching over you and that’s why you were behaving like a gentleman, because that was what she expected of you.
"So, you can’t tell me you don’t believe in ghosts, cuz you already talk to one, your mother’s ghost or spirit or whatever. For all you know, she could be right here, right now. I wonder if she would approve of this behavior.”
She then folded her arms and glared at him.
He was so stunned he merely stared at her, his mouth hanging open with nothing to say for a full minute. “I…I was just fooling around. I don’t really…I mean…”
“You don’t think your mother’s looking down on you? You don’t think she’s watching over you? Guiding you in some way?”
“Don’t be stupid,” he shook his head.
“So, now I’m stupid, am I?” she said.
“No! That’s just… that’s a mother’s influence. That’s their love for you. It’s already in you from when they were alive and when they die…”
“They live on…their love for you does, sort of. That love is their spirit coming back to you when you least expect it. That’s what I feel, Victor. That is Richard coming back to me to help me, to keep me sane or whatever it is, because he loved me so much, and I’m betting your mother does that for you, too, or you wouldn’t keep mentioning her.
“For goodness sake, Victor! This whole weekend was for her, only you substituted me. What makes you think she wasn’t with us the entire time? I’m betting she was. It was your birthday, after all. Probably her favorite day of the year…or ever. very likely she wanted to spend it with you as much if not more than you wanted to spend it with her.”
“Did you see her?” he asked, a shiver running along his spine.
“Of course not! Why would she come to me? She doesn’t even know me,” she said, exasperated. “Ghosts don’t have to show up and make their presence known, either. They speak without words…or something. I can’t explain it. You have to have an imagination, is all. You’re thinking too concrete.”
“I’m a lawyer. It’s the only kind of thinking I do,” he retorted.
“Well, there’s your problem,” she snidely replied. “Lawyers are… never mind.”
“I get the feeling you’d much prefer I was anything but a lawyer. Would a garbage man do for you?”
“Infinitely!” she snapped.
They stared at each other, at an impasse.
He chose to ignore that last jab. “Then you should leave this house if it’s haunted.”
“No, you idiot,” she said, exasperated. “It’s not the house.”
“But you just said he’s in the bedroom and…”
“The entire house could burn down and Richard would still follow me.”
Victor ran frustrated fingers through his hair. “Simon didn’t mention that,” he mumbled to himself.
“Simon, your son? What does he have to do with this?”
Victor laughed, though without humor. “Absolutely nothing.”
Violet frowned. “Did you tell him about me?”
“Don’t tell me. That’s another Violet no-no?”
“What did you tell him?”
He sighed. “Didn’t have to tell them anything. They just knew.”
“Them? So Ronnie knows about me too? And what do they know exactly?”
“They could tell their dad was in love, that’s all. They wanted to know when they could meet their new step-mother.”
“Step-mother!” she shrieked.
“They like to jump the gun. I think they get that from me.”
She let this new development sink in then frowned. “But…did you tell them about Richard?”
“Let’s just put it this way, I ought to get you and Simon together for a debate on ghosts. Then maybe I can make some sense of all this nonsense.”
“Does he believe in ghosts?”
“Indeed he does. Both my boys do. They had some crazy stories about my father and mother coming to them in a dream or something and…”
“How can you not believe in ghosts then?” she said incredulously. “For heaven sake, Victor, are you that cynical or just…faithless?”
“Maybe I'm both. I have to be to get to the truth.”
“Truth has many facets…all depends on how you look at it.”
He rolled his eyes. “Ah, yes, that elusive truth which isn’t truth at all,” he snapped. “Well, I’ll tell ya, Violet. Simon told me to talk to Richard’s ghost. He seems to think he might not realize he’s actually dead and someone should set him straight. That way he’ll leave you alone and go away and then I could have you all to myself.
“But you know what? I don’t think you want him gone. I think you are keeping him here cuz you’re afraid. And you should be afraid…afraid that I won’t play second fiddle to a ghost that is only a figment of your imagination. You should also be very afraid you’ll end up in the nut house!”
He stood up and walked to the door. Without turning around to look at her he said, “Oh, and if you hear from my mother’s ghost, do tell her I missed her for my birthday. You needn’t tell her I love her. She already knows that.”
Violet stood frozen in place as she heard his footsteps on the stairs and the slam of the front door. She fell to the floor and hugged her knees, just as she used to do as a terrified little kid.
“I’m turning into her,” she whispered.
“Don’t listen to him. You’re not crazy,” Richard said desperately. “You’re not going insane. You’re not like your mom.”
Oddly enough, Violet couldn’t hear him that time.