“Victor!” Peter shouted and took off like a shot, dropping his basket and scattering a few Brandywine tomatoes on the grass.
Violet visibly stiffened at the name, but kept her head down and continued instructing the children on how to know when corn is ripe enough to be picked. Of course, they also left, one by one, to greet Victor, most with just as much enthusiasm as Peter, others with less urgency, but all with brilliant smiles on their faces.
Even the oldest kids slipped away, although they, at least, gave apologetic smiles and said, “We’ll be right back, Miss Violet.”
Violet was soon left with only Carmencita by her side, who didn’t know what all the fuss was about. She preferred pulling out yellow turnips--or rather trying to-- and putting them in Violet's basket.
Peter jumped up into Victor’s arms and hugged his neck.
“How’s my good boy?” Victor said, rubbing his little back as he held on tightly.
“I missed you. Why dintcha come before?”
“Oh, Peter, I’m sorry, but I’ve been busy.”
“Didcha marry Violet yet?” Peter asked, his face scrunched up in an adorably grumpy expression.
Victor smiled and shook his head as he saw the other kids coming toward them. “Sorry, buddy, not yet, but let’s talk about that later, okay?”
The kids swarmed around him and it took several minutes for each to get a hug and/or kiss from their favorite guy. When at last he answered all questions, promised a special surprise when they were done and convinced them to return to their work, the only one who refused to leave was Peter.
Peter stood in front of him with a serious little pout and his arms crossed over his chest.
“Violet’s waiting for you, Peter. Don’t you want to…”
“I wanna get ‘dopted!” he whined.
Victor sighed and went down to his level, kneeling on the grass. “Peter, I told you it would take some time.”
“It’s too long,” he said, his bottom lip trembling. “I wanna daddy.”
“Oh, Peter. Come here,” Victor said, opening his arms to him.
Peter stood his ground for a second then gave up, and walked into Victor’s comforting arms. “Don’t you love me?” he asked, a tear slipping down his face.
“I do, you know I do,” Victor said, cuddling him and kissing the top of his head. “I promised I would try to get Violet to marry me. I have been making some progress, but she isn’t ready yet. I asked her two times already.”
“Can’t you ‘dopt me first then marry Violet later?”
Victor stared at Violet over the top of his blond head. Though he knew the sensible thing would be to say a simple no, he just couldn’t do it.
“You know what, Peter? You’re right. I don’t need Violet to be a good dad. I…I’ll have a chat with Reverend and Mrs. Trent.”
“Really?” Peter said, his eyes lighting up.
“Yep, but, Peter,” he said, when the little boy hugged him. “Listen to me, Peter. You have to promise not to say anything to anyone until I say so, okay?”
“It may take a long while. Adoption requires loads of paperwork and stuff you won’t even understand.”
“Can I tell Georgie and Julian?”
“Can I tell Georgie and Julian?”
“Um, no, not yet. I’ll have a little talk with them too and then I’ll set up a meeting and we can all talk about it together. The Trents have to say this is okay, you know, and they may not like the idea. Remember what I told you before?”
“Uh…no,” Peter said.
Victor chuckled. “I said that it’s harder for a man with no wife to adopt kids, especially three at once.”
“Oh,” Peter mumbled, looking crestfallen.
“Doesn’t mean I won’t try. It just may take a while.”
“How long?” he asked.
“I don’t know exactly; a few months. We’ll ask Reverend Trent, but if everything goes well, I might be your dad maybe in time for Christmas.”
“Awesome,” Peter said, his blue eyes wide as saucers.
“Now, let’s go tell Violet and the kids to finish up here. We’re having an end of summer pool party at my house. Remember, Peter,” Victor said, putting his finger to the boy’s lips.
“Don’t tell nobody,” Peter said, grinning from ear to ear.
Victor stood up and carried him toward the bountiful garden.
“Wow, this is beautiful,” he said, setting Peter down on his feet.
“Look at all the peppers, Victor!” Kelly said, holding up her basket for him to see. “You told us you like them.”
“Hmm, I can taste stuffed pepper already,” he said, winking at her.
“Look at this!” Tim shouted, pointing to a guard with a thick, pale blue, knobbly skin.
“What in heaven’s name is that?” Victor asked making a face at the odd looking thing.
“I dunno. I just like it cuz it’s gnarly!” Tim said excitedly.
Victor laughed. "It certainly is."
“How many times do I gotta tell ya it’s a blue Hubbard squash?” said Joaquin shaking his head in exasperation.
“Ten times?” Janey suggested.
Victor laughed again until a small hand tugged on his. He looked down and saw Peter’s older brother Julian shyly smiling up at him.
“Wanna see what I growed?” he asked.
“Show me,” Victor said, following him to the pumpkin patch.
Julian pointed to an oblong, sort of hour glass shaped squash, the only one in a sea of pumpkins.
“That’s an odd looking pumpkin, you got there, Julian,” Victor commented.
“Dat’s cuz it’s not a pumpkin. Miss Violet says the seeds got mixed up, but I like it anyway. It’s different,” Julian said.
“Know what it’s called?” Victor asked.
"Um...Butter somepin," Julian answered with a shrug.
“It’s a Butternut squash ,“ Georgiana interjected. “He thinks it’s gonna taste like butter, but I don’t think so.” She eyed the fruit with a touch of disapproval.
“Well, I remember my mother making that for me and while it didn’t taste like butter, it was really good,” Victor said. “What have you grown, Georgie? Will you show me?”
She smiled and led him back to the main garden. “I have cucumbers. Miss Violet’s gonna show us how to make pickles,” she said. “Isn’t that cool?”
“Very cool,” he said.
He watched the two brothers and sister tending their fruit, picturing them as his kids and he smiled. He could do this! He could be a good dad, even without a mother for them.
Yet, his eyes sought Violet. The haughty tilt of her head told him she was angry or resentful, most likely from what he said to her. The large garden hat he had bought for her hid some of her face, but he could see the pink tint to her cheeks which told him she might be a bit embarrassed.
“Finish up, Kids. It’s almost time to go,” Victor said loud enough for everyone to hear, including Violet.
She looked at her watch and frowned. “We’ve still got almost an hour until The Trents return,” Violet said.
“They won’t be coming,” Victor said.
“Hey, does that mean we’re going someplace with you?” Jeff asked.
“It does. My house for a pool party.”
After several minutes of whooping and cheering, the kids put away their tools and went to clean up, the older ones helping the younger ones from totally drenching themselves as they did so.
Victor took this opportunity to speak to Violet, virtually unheard, except for little Carmencita, who rarely strayed too far from Violet. He took the little girl from Violet without much protest from either one and kissed the child. He spoke some soft words in Spanish and pulled a tiny doll out of his pocket giving it to her. He then turned to Violet and stared at her for a good long time.
“Forgive me, Violet,” he whispered. “There is none so blind as those who won’t see. That’s me. I just didn’t know it."
She gaped at him, utterly bewildered.
"It doesn’t help that I can’t see your ghost. That just makes it harder for me to believe in him, but if you see them and my sons see them and even Freddy and his family sees them, then…I must be the one who is blind. I was wrong to say such mean things to you and I hope you’ll give me another chance. You asked me not to give up on you and now I ask the same of you. I'm a knuckle head.”
This was the last thing she expected. In all honesty, though, she didn’t know what she expected. She stayed silent and watched Carmencita play with her little doll while cradled in Victor’s arms; she always looked smaller there.
She looked up at Victor. “So…you’re taking my kids away?”
“We were hoping you’d come with us,” he said.
“Victor, I can’t just leave work early.”
He nodded. “I guess I never told you about the half dozen Franklinia trees I donated to the garden. Walter was supposed to ask you where you wanted them planted. They’ll be here before the end of the month.”
Violet’s mouth fell open and her eyes widened to their limit. “You didn’t!” she gasped.
“I did. I think he’ll give you the rest of the day off so you can really give their placement optimal thought. I remember you telling me they are rare and valuable so you’ll want to give them the perfect home. A raucous pool party is the perfect place for such serious contemplation, don’t you think?”
She gaped at him. “Victor Romanoff, what in the world am I going to do with you?”
He grinned. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”