“Well?” Victor asked, tossing aside the relatively recent issue of Birds and Blooms magazine, standing up and going to Violet as she emerged from the examination room into the waiting area. “What is the diagnosis?”
Violet rolled her eyes, and ignoring him, headed toward the reception desk where the nurse waited with her medical chart and the bill for the day.
“Violet, what did the doctor say?” he anxiously said.
“Nothing,” Violet said, taking out her check book. “I’m perfectly fine, as I told you would be the case. Now, will you be quiet so I can pay my bill?”
“All taken care of already, Violet,” said Marion, the nurse.
“What?” Violet said, looking up from her writing.
“Your fiancé paid already,” Marion replied, smiling at Victor.
“My…who said he’s my fiancé?” Violet shrieked, glaring at Victor. “What are you telling people?”
“He didn’t have to say anything, Sweetie, everybody knows you’ve been dating Mr. Romanoff since Freddy’s birthday party, and I’m pretty sure that’s when he proposed to you…least that’s what I heard. Mandy Walters said she saw him down on one knee and everything. So romantic! We were late coming to the party, so we must have missed that, but it sure is nice seeing you happy again.”
Violet gaped, her mouth hanging unattractively open.
“Not that I’m hinting for an invite or anything, but we did kinda miss your quickie wedding to Richie and we’d rather not miss this one. Hmm… guess that’s more than a hint, huh?” Marion said with an unabashed shrug.
Victor smiled and nodded. “I think we can handle that, Marion, but first,” he said, turning serious, “I’d like to talk to the doctor …”
“You can’t!” Violet shouted.
“…since Violet doesn’t want to tell me anything about what is causing these black outs and dizzy spells,” he continued.
Marion’s sharp, brown eyes narrowed before she flipped open Violet’s medical chart and read it. “Violet, did you tell Donald about this?”
“Marion,” Violet warned.
“Says here you only came in for a physical and that you haven’t experienced anything unusual, except for…” Marion said, frowning. “How long have you been…”
“Marion, stop it!” Violet said. “You’re forgetting doctor/patient confidentiality.”
Marion rolled her eyes. “Give me a break. Mr. Romanoff is practically your husband and has every right to…”
“He’s not my husband. He’s not even my fiancé no matter what Mandy Walters says. The big, old gossip!” Violet snapped.
“Violet,” Victor said, but he spoke not another word. The hurt expression said it for him.
“Violet, for shame!” Marion admonished. “Did you ever keep anything from Richie? No, I don’t think so!”
“That…that’s totally different,” Violet said, blushing bright pink. “I won’t have Victor or anyone watching while I have my feet up in stirrups!”
“You didn’t have your feet up …we don’t even have stirrups in the exam room!” Marion said, looking at Violet as if she was completely cracked in the head. “Violet, what’s going on?”
“Nothing! I just want to leave,” Violet said, pushing her check book back into her bag, and tossing it over her shoulder, she spun on her heel and made to leave. Victor, however, grabbed her arm and held her in place.
“Let go of me!” she snapped. “I’m done here.”
“No, you’re not,” Victor growled in her ear. “You may never marry me, but I’ll be damned if I allow you to die because of your foolish pride.”
“I’m not dying,” she retorted.
“That’s right, you’re not…. not on my watch. May we see the doctor again, Marion, and do it right this time around?” Victor said, still gripping Violet’s arm in a vise-like hand.
“Don’t be stupid, Victor,” Violet said, pulling her arm in vain. “We’re all dying. From the moment we’re born we’re dying.”
“No, we’re not, at least not those of us wishing to stay alive,” he sternly said. “We’re only dying when the Good Lord says it’s our turn to leave this earth, and it’s not your turn yet. I’m making quite certain of that.”
“Oh, so now you’re playing God?” Violet snapped.
“Playing God, huh?” Marion muttered angrily. “Is that what you think Donald and I are doing?”
“I…no, I didn’t mean…”
“I’ve known you all your life, Violet Bennett,” Marion angrily said, her hands propped on her ample hips. “Do you think Richie would want you to get ill and possibly die ahead of your time if there was the slightest chance of you living to a ripe old age? And your mother would kill us if we allowed you to leave this office without finding out what ails you, so hush up and go sit down! We have two other patients we need to see first, but they should be quick, and then Donald will see you again and this time, you tell him everything you’ve experienced, Violet. You hear me? We’re getting to the bottom of this come hell or high water!”
Properly chastised, Violet meekly nodded and went to sit down, Victor by her side. She refused to look at him even though she felt his eyes boring into her. It seemed like an eternity but it was only twenty-five minutes later when they found themselves alone in the waiting room, the last person having gone in to see the doctor. She felt lightheaded and might have started crying, but held it back. It would only make matters worse, or so she thought.
“Violet, will you allow me to go in with you and talk to the doctor?” Victor asked quietly.
“I…no,” she whispered.
“Violet, please, you apparently aren’t the least bit curious what’s going on with you, but I’m not so lucky. I can ask the doctor pertinent questions so we can find…”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said quietly, looking down at her hands in her lap.
“Because we’re not engaged?” he asked pointedly.
“Victor, please,” she said.
“Why, Violet, just tell me why?”
Why what, she wondered? She didn’t have the nerve to ask.
“You never had any intention of marrying me, did you?” he asked.
She thought about ignoring him, but that seemed too much of an effort. “I told you from the start, didn’t I? That first day we met.”
“At the fireman’s picnic?” he asked. “When I brought my kids over and we bought everything you had baked?”
“No, that doesn’t count. I didn’t know you then. I meant at the supermarket, the day we went to the Mount Clair restaurant,” she said. “I had no intention whatsoever to be romantically involved with anyone… ever. I told you that before we even left the parking lot and you gave me some story that you weren’t either which was apparently just a big, fat lie. You may recall how you pushed your way into my life from that point on and never left. I obviously had little choice in the matter, now did I?”
For the longest time they remained in an uncomfortable silence.
At long last, Victor drew in a deep breath and said, “I’d leave now but I don’t trust you to do anything about your health. I’m sorry for being a bother to you but I refuse to sit aside and leave you to fulfill your death wish,” he said.
“I don’t…I don’t have a death wish!” she huffed indignantly.
“It’s clear to me now. I feel so stupid that I couldn’t see it before, never imaged this of you,” he said, shaking his head wearily.
“What are you talking about?” she said impatiently.
“I should have known, should have seen it as it was right in front of me all this time, but I was too blinded by love I suppose.”
“What in the world are you rattling on about?”
“Your deepest, darkest desire of course—albeit an extremely selfish one. You wish to join your beloved Richard in the afterlife. You care nothing about those you leave behind, your son and daughter, your brother, your nieces and nephews, all your friends and those who count on you at work, not to mention the angel kids… and obviously me and my boys, who already consider you their step-mother, mean nothing to you.”
Stunned, Violet sat staring at her fingers. How could he think she wanted to die? She didn’t! At least she didn’t think so. Victor thought her selfish, too? Was she? She never thought so before, but those who are selfish rarely know when they are, do they? Or they’re too selfish to care!
She put her head in her hands, her head aching, her nerves shot and gosh-darn-it she was trying her best not to keel over again. She could feel the world spinning on its axis and her stomach churn like a storm-swept sea. The fact that all this was happening as she sat perfectly still boded ill. She wanted nothing more than to be home cuddled up with Calendula, some chamomile tea in hand and a sappy, old romantic chick-flick on the tube, something to make her sad. That at least would give her proper reason to cry… about something other than herself, that is.
“Violet, are you all right?” Victor asked anxiously.
“No,” she squeaked.
He put his arm around her. “What is it? What can I do for you?”
“Hold me,” she mumbled.
“What do you feel?”
“I’m scared, Victor. Please don’t leave me,” she whispered. “I need you.”
That might have made him ecstatic, had Violet not been trembling and clinging to him as if in fear. “I’m going nowhere, Sweetie. Don’t worry.”
“The low blood pressure then? That’s what caused the black outs?” Victor asked.
“Yes, and the vertigo didn’t help, but I suspect low blood sugar, too. I’ll call you as soon as the test results come in. They’ll give us a better idea,” Dr. Gifford said, his voice gruff and his forehead furrowed. Victor stood and shook hands with him, then held the door open for Violet.
“Violet?” Dr. Gifford said.
“Yes?” she replied, nervously.
He glared at her, his bushy eyebrows meeting in the middle. He looked particularly angry and something else, something she couldn’t define straight away.
“I’m disappointed that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me everything so I could help you before this got so bad. How long have we known each other?” he said, and before waiting for an answer he thundered, “Since you were born! So, of course I feel responsible for you.”
She bit her lip and looked down at her feet which she shouldn’t have done. It made the world spin again and she reached out a hand, which Victor promptly grasped steadying her.
“At least you have someone who cares enough to push you to do what’s right,” he said, nodding in approval to Victor. “Do as I say and you should start feeling better. Do as Marion says with that voodoo, herbal, homeopathic stuff she’s always carrying on about and you’ll probably be cured. Woman’s intent on putting me out of business, she is. Anyway, I’ll expect you back here in a month, so I can check on how you’re doing. Gotta keep my eye on you from now on, little girl, or your daddy will have my hide. Git going now! Gotta pot roast slow cooking back home and my big belly knows it.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gifford,” Victor said, unable to keep the grin off his face.
They waved to Marion as they left the office. At his car he held the car door open for Violet, still smiling.
She, on the other hand, frowned. “What are you so happy about?”
“I’m always happy when I meet people I like and I liked them very much. In fact, I like them so much I’d even invite them to my wedding if I had a bride.”
She groaned and got into the car, tossing her head back and closing her eyes. “Let’s not start that again,” she begged.
He closed her door and went around to the driver’s side. He looked to her as he got in and sadly shook his head. He then reached across her to fasten the seat belt for her. The fact that she didn’t slap him away as she always did told him she wasn’t at all feeling well or didn’t have the strength to fight him. Either way, he felt bad for her.
He drove to the store, parked and told her to stay where she was, which was more than fine with her. He then went in to get her prescription filled and to look for the voodoo items Marion told them about. He chuckled to himself as he recalled the look of dread on Dr. Gifford’s face as his wife, nurse and a would-be apothecary explained which herbs and foods would make Violet feel better and possibly, with continued use, keep the symptoms from recurring. It was worth a try, Victor thought. His own mother was very much into herbal remedies and was the healthiest person he’d ever known… until the end.
“Now, don’t worry about that anymore, my dear,” Heidi whispered to him. “It wasn’t your fault or anyone’s. It was my time, and that is that. It is not, however, Violet’s time, so take care of her. She needs you.”
He frowned as he looked over the ginger root at the supermarket’s vegetable section. “How can you tell when you have a good one?” he mumbled to himself.
Someone giggled behind him and he glanced around. He recognized the face, but couldn’t quite recall the name. “Hello…”
“Helen Gibson. I’m Violet’s friend…from the daycare center?” she said, handing him a healthy looking ginger root. “This is perfect for cooking. Will keep long in the fridge, too. Some people like to plant it, but this isn’t likely to grow well, not around here anyway. Besides, you’d have to wait until spring.”
“Right,” he said, not having a clue what she was talking about. “Thanks, Helen.”
“Welcome. So, um…you and Violet still… you know…together?” she asked, smiling in that way which meant she was hoping not.
He stared at her. She was pretty, very much so, and a bit younger than Violet by his estimation. He supposed Helen wouldn’t balk if he asked her to marry him. She might even jump at the chance. As he recalled she was recently divorced and had two daughters. He looked down at the ginger root and thought of Violet in the car and his inner voice whispered again, “Violet needs you.”
“I’m not sure about that,” he said, although he hadn’t meant to say it aloud.
Helen smiled and handed him a card. “There’s my number. When you find out for sure, give me a call, okay?”
He took the card and stared at her as she walked down to the pumpkins. She took a large one—the biggest one she could carry-- and turned back to him. “Think this is good enough for a jack-o-lantern?”
He went to her and shook his head. “Should be bigger if you plan on displaying it on the doorstep,” he said.
She laughed. “Are you kidding? Around here you’ll get pumpkin all over the driveway, the front steps of the house and all down the street if you leave it anywhere for punks to find,” she said, shaking her head so her blonde curls could bounce about. “This is for my girls to carve and enjoy in the house and I thought I’d roast the seeds. Do you like roasted pumpkin seeds, Victor?”
“Never had any,” he admitted.
She grinned. “Then I’ll have to save you some. You can come by on Halloween night. We’ll be home watching scary movies and pigging out on chocolate. Fun times,” she said, coaxingly.
“We’re having a Halloween party,” he heard himself say.
“We?” she asked.
“At my house. You and your girls are welcome to come,” he said. “There will be loads of kids there, some friends, family. Costumes, games, food, loads of fun,” he said.
“Hmm, I’ll ask the kids,” she said, smiling up at him. “Should I dress up, too?”
“You better,” he said, smiling. “It is Halloween.”
“Well, then, it’s a date, whether the girls want to come or not,” she said, placing the pumpkin into her cart. “See ya at your house on Halloween night.”
Victor watched her walk away, then shouted after her, “Wait, don’t you need to know the address?”
“You kidding? Every woman in Catalpa Valley knows exactly where you live. Some have even picked out drapes,” she said, wrinkling her nose at him and turning back down the aisle, humming to herself.
“Drapes, huh?” he said to himself as he went to the checkout counter. “Maybe I can invite the Giffords to my wedding, after all.”
“What the hell is that about?” Richard shouted. “Did you notice your son just asked Helen out on a date? Care to explain that?”
Heidi stared after her son in dismay. “I don’t understand it at all.”
“You said he was in love with Violet. You insisted he couldn’t love another, so what the hell is that?” Richard said.
“I assure you, Richard,” Heidi said, glaring a hole in the back of Victor’s head. “I don’t have a clue, but I’m going to find out.”