What is it that they say about promises in the dark?
Victor couldn’t remember. As a matter of fact, he was having trouble thinking of anything. Forming any coherent thought at present was practically impossible. Of course, he should be sleeping, not thinking, but he couldn’t do that either. How could he sleep with Violet cuddled up to him, her bare skin enticingly pressed to his? She was sending his libido into overdrive…the little minx.
Was she trying to torture him? Sure seemed like it. Was she punishing him for God know what reason? Well, she was doing a bang-up job then.
This wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard to get a woman to succumb to your charms—of which he knew he had many—and eventually make said woman fall madly in love with him. Of course, he had no idea how long a woman could cling to the ghost of her beloved husband.
To pour salt into the gaping wound, why did he have to pick the one woman left in America who had not entered the sexual revolution? He laughed sardonically at the ridiculous question. Violet, he suspected, probably never in her life even acknowledged there being one. She was as traditional as they come. Blast it all, that was her greatest appeal! But still…
Why the hell did he make stupid promises which no one should ever be forced to keep? Of course, he only promised to wake her if she was the instigator. She hadn’t said anything about him keeping his distance, did she? Her shunning the night gown and staying so close was, for all intents and purposes, an invitation, was it not?
He grinned and reasoned, he was certainly going to take it as such and, after all, what harm was there? He had fought it long enough—admittedly not too fiercely this time around—but he was just a mortal man. He could only take so much.
That decided, he gently rolled Violet onto her back. He smiled as she cooed and continued sleeping. She was nothing short of adorable even in sleep. He watched her for a while and brushed the hair out of her eyes. When that didn’t awaken her, he allowed his hand to roam freely, lightly touching her soft skin. He marveled that none of this awoke her, although she did moan in pleasure. Pushing his luck, he kissed her lightly starting at the temple, down to her cheek, around her chin and then settling on her lips.
To his surprise, she giggled, tossed her arms around him and pulled him on top of her. She then kissed him once, dropped her arms and swiftly settled back to sleep. He stared at her in amazement. Would she sleep through an earthquake, too? Well, hadn’t she slept through earth shattering sex once already? He stifled a laugh. She couldn’t truly be asleep, could she?
“Violet? Are you awake?” he whispered.
“Hmmm….” she said and slept on.
He chuckled. Now was the time to find out how much he could get away with.
Victor buried his face in her hair, loving the feel of her against him, but something—like a bug-- or perhaps someone—like a bug named Jiminy Cricket—needled him, and wouldn’t allow him to continue.
“Really, Cowboy? She puts all her faith in you, she trusts you implicitly, and this is how you repay her?” Richard said.
“Richard!” Heidi chided. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” he snapped.
“You said you wouldn’t interfere.”
“That was before when I didn’t think I was needed anymore. Apparently, I am. If I’m gonna be stuck here anyway, I might as well do something useful,” he said.
“And how is this useful?” Heidi asked.
“Violet thinks she needs me for something. It’s obvious to me it’s that I have to protect her from him. Nothing else makes sense.”
“She doesn’t need protection!”
Richard glared at her. “Really? You can stand there while your precious son is groping my sleeping wife…”
“Widow,” she stubbornly interjected.
“She’s my wife until she marries someone else,” he replied. “She asked him not to molest her in the night while she sleeps and…”
“No, she didn’t. She asked to be awakened if she started making love to him in her sleep. That is totally different.”
“Totally different, huh? Didn’t she say, this can’t happen again? I heard that quite distinctly. I’m surprised you didn’t.”
Heidi had the good grace to look uncomfortable. “Yes, I suppose you’re right, but…”
“But that’s exactly what he was doing and he would have continued if I hadn’t stopped him.”
“You don’t know that. He has a conscience.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “And apparently that’s me at the moment. You are so blind when it comes to your baby boy, aren’t you? He can do no wrong according to you! Well, I ask you, Heidi, what are you doing here then?”
“What do you mean?” she said, stunned.
“I mean, if he’s so damn perfect, if he always does what is right why are you here? What…you a voyeur or something? Do you always watch as your son gets some girl flat on her…”
“I do no such thing!” she huffed.
“Then I don’t see how you are remotely needed here. You certainly weren’t acting as his conscience just now…like I was doing. Frankly, I’d say you aren’t needed at all.”
Richard gave a dismissive wave, and with no argument Heidi drifted through the ceiling and vanished. He then triumphantly folded his arms over his chest and looked back to Victor.
Victor sighed as he gazed down at Violet. Now he remembered what they say about promises in the dark…they shouldn’t be trusted, nor should he be apparently—not with a naked Violet right beside him, and yet she unerring trusted in him. Why did she and what did that say about her?
“That she’s stupid and unfortunately very trusting,” Richard answered for him.
“She’s not stupid!” Victor snapped aloud and much louder than intended. Violet stirred and cuddled closer to him sleeping on unperturbed. His heart melted. Surely such trust should be its own reward. It, after all, goes hand in hand with love.
“Sure does, so don’t abuse it, Cowboy, if you know what’s good for ya,” Richard said, grumpily.
Victor frowned slightly. Cowboy? Why was his inner voice suddenly sounding very different than usual? It had been a very long time—several months, in fact—when his very own Jiminy Cricket called him Cowboy. Come to think of it, it had started up when he and Violet met and then suddenly stopped. So, why would it start up again now? What was that about?
“You’re not too bright, are ya? And you an all-powerful, all-knowing lawyer and all,” Richard sneered.
Victor sat up and looked around the dark room, frowning. “No,” he whispered, as an absurd idea sprung to his head.
Richard laughed. “No? You mean you’re not dumb or you’re not all-powerful and all knowing? Got news for ya, Cowboy. Your college-boy sons, even the one that’s currently flunking out, are smarter than you…about ghostly things anyway. In regards to the spirit world they are light years ahead of you, but then ya know that, don’t you?”
“My…boys?” Victor said aloud. Beside him Violet stirred and reached for him.
“Victor, can’t you sleep?” she mumbled.
“I…I’m fine. I thought I heard something. Go to sleep,” he said, lying back on the pillows, one arm around her, pulling her closer. She cuddled to him, smiled and drifted back to sleep.
He drew in a deep, calming breath, but he still had a slight confused crease between his brows. Funny, it was, that Violet always complained about insomnia, yet right now a hurricane could start in the room and Victor suspected she’d sleep through it.
“She never could sleep unless I…unless someone was beside her. You might be an acceptable replacement to her husband,” Richard irritably muttered.
An insane and completely ridiculous thought formed in Victor’s brain, but he shook his head rejecting it before it fully formed. No, it just couldn’t be.
Richard laughed. “Try opening your mind a crack like your boys suggested back at the Grand Canyon. Surely you remember that? Could help,” he said.
“Opened mind,” Victor whispered. He tried to recall the complete conversation he had with Simon and Ronnie on their spring break trip to the Grand Canyon. They spoke, in a round-about way, of Violet and Richard and ghosts and spirits and…but it was pure crazy talk. There were no such things as ghosts and spirits coming to you in your dreams.
Again Richard laughed. “Keep telling yourself that, Cowboy, and let’s see how far it gets ya,” he retorted, ever so amused.
A chill ran along Victor’s spine. If Violet hadn’t been comfortably sleeping beside him, her arm resting on his chest, Victor might have bolted out of bed and…and what?
“Punch a ghost in the nose?” Richard suggested. “Useless, but I’d actually like to see ya try. I could use a laugh.”
Victor stared into the dark, looking all around, but what did he expect to see? A figure shrouded in misty white? Rather ridiculous, but then what was he looking for? For the most part, he thought, if you don’t see it or can’t touch it, then it doesn’t exist. But what if you only hear things in your own head? Wouldn’t that mean you’re going nuts?
Victor recalled his son Simon once telling him his favorite quote from Dumbledor, the all-powerful wizard mentor to Harry Potter. “Just cuz it’s in your head, doesn’t mean it’s not real.” It may have been the reason Simon’s now working at a mental hospital and considering going into psychiatry. Victor laughed at himself. Was he now going to listen to advice from a fictional character in a kid’s book?
“There are worse things to listen to, Cowboy, especially when that advise is spot on,” Richard replied to his unspoken question.
Victor gasped. Did ghosts read minds, too?
Richard laughed. “That is how we get inside your head. You’d be surprised what we can do. I know I was at first.”
His grip on Violet tightening, Victor didn’t know what to think as he continued to scan the room in vain. He could see nothing out of the norm. Was he going insane, right then and there, for no apparent reason?
“Ever occur to you ghosts might not be visible?” Richard said. “Sure, you’ll hear stories of some transparent lady in a window, a phantom glow in the woods, or a misty soldier walking through a Civil war battlefield at dawn. Those are the exceptions, though.”
Richard moved around the bed away from Victor. “But in truth, I’ve been told I’m not a ghost at all,” he said, lying down on the other side of the bed, next to Violet. Much to his delight, Violet instantly turned away from Victor and cuddled up to Richard. “That’s my pretty girl.” He held her close and kissed the top of her head.
Victor suddenly felt very cold, as if a bitter winter wind had just burst through the closed windows and swirled around him. He sat up and watched Violet slide away from him, cuddle up to a pillow and whisper, “Richard. Love my Richard.”
He shook his head in the dark, still not believing any of this was possible, but…wasn’t this a sort of proof? Sure seemed like it.
So, Violet had been right. Richard was here with them, possibly always had been. It was Richard all this time talking to him as well? The man’s ghost had been…what? Taking residence in his head? For what possible reason? But wait… he just said he wasn’t a ghost, so what was he then? A poltergeist?
“Hey! I ain’t no mischief-making, punk-ass, ghost wanna-be!”
Then what, Victor thought, are you, if not a ghost?
“Spirit guide,” Richard replied, pulling Violet closer to him.
Spirit guide? What the hell is a spirit guide anyway?
“Exactly what it sounds like, Bud,” Richard explained. “A departed soul or spirit that guides the living. I’m here to help Violet. You have one of your own, but I doubt she’d want me to tell you about that. Now we got that straight, why don’t you settle down and sleep? There’s a good cowboy.”
Victor had no desire for sleep, especially knowing a ghost or departed soul or whatever was here in the room with them. He suddenly wished someone would come along for an exorcism.
“I ain’t no demon possessing her, idiot!” Richard snarled. “Now shut up and go to sleep. You’re starting to annoy me and you don’t wanna see me when I’m angry!”
Victor gulped and leaned back against his pillows. He didn’t have much of a choice, now did he?
“No, you don’t. Good night, Cowboy. Most likely kill ya in the morning.” Richard chuckled to himself. “Always wanted to say that!”