“I have to say, I was very surprised to hear from you,” Helen said, raising the wine glass to her glossy, pink lips.
“Pleasantly surprised, I hope,” Victor replied.
“Needless to say,” she said with a huge smile. “I expected Halloween night to be when we’d meet again. Did I tell you? My girls are so excited about the party!”
“I’ll bet,” Victor said, smiling mildly. “Have they picked out costumes?”
“They’ve been working on them tirelessly. Bethany is going to be Bella and…”
“Bella?” Victor asked.
“Bella Swan.” Helen gaped at his blank expression. “Victor, you have to know who Bella Swan is. From the Twilight movies?”
He shrugged. “Never heard of her.”
“Seriously?” Helen said, then she burst out laughing. “Well, no biggie. Give Bethany ten minutes and she’ll explain the entire series. She loves it! Bella was easy to do. Bethany just has to wear a hoodie, tons of white vampire makeup with a little dribble of blood out of the corner of her mouth, oh yes, and fangs.”
“Ah, a vampire. Should have known. It’s a craze now, isn’t it?” Victor said. “And your other daughter?”
“Regina went more traditional. She’ll be Jason. I tried to explain to her that all serial killers are male, but she’s got this defiant streak in her. Must get it from me, the poor kid!”
Victor chuckled. “Well, you could have told her about Lizzy Borden. Granted, she only killed two people, her parents, but it was sensational at the time. I should say allegedly killed. She was acquitted.”
“But you think she did it?” she said, propping her chin on her hand.
“Well…I wasn’t there, but as the story goes…Lizzy Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, and…”
“And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one!” Helen finished with a laugh. “Can’t argue with Mother Goose rhymes!”
“Exactly,” he said, grinning at her.
“I’ll have to tell her that one. She might actually like it,” Helen said, her eyes bright with ideas. “We could get her a long, white gown splattered with blood, of course, and she could carry a bloody axe. I really think she’d love it.”
“She might want to carry a beheaded pigeon, too.”
She made a gruesome face. “Why?”
“Lizzy’s father had killed her pet pigeons some time before the murders and that was introduced as a motive during her trial.”
“Wow, Regina would consider it justified then. Oh, I gotta tell her all this!” Helen said excitedly. “Thanks, Victor, for such a great idea.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. “Have you picked out a costume for yourself? No admittance without a costume, you know. We’re strictly adhering to this rule.”
“Yes, the kids insist every adult has to come dressed up.”
“I see. Well, I went to a Halloween store at the mall and all I could find were naughty nurse, French maid, bewitching witch and sexy vampire, oh, yeah, and some sort of pussy cat girl thing, and I didn’t quite think that would be appropriate for a kids’ party.” She grinned and tilted her head to one side, studying him. “Of course, I’m all for any of those in private with the right guy.”
He smiled and quickly grabbed his wine glass.
“What are you going as, Victor?”
“That is a well-guarded secret, so, of course, only the NSA would know,” he said.
She burst out laughing and covered her mouth with both hands. “Sorry, I’m going to get us kicked out of here if I don’t shut up. This is such a nice place. I really would like to stay through a whole dinner this time.”
“What happened last time? Kids acting up?”
“Oh, no,” she said, bracingly. “The ex.”
“Ah, yes. Had a few of those,” Victor said.
“That’s right. I heard you were divorced. How long has it been?”
“Long enough,” he said, evasively.
She studied him again. “And that means…you’re ready to not be divorced anymore?”
“Something like that,” he said, quickly adding, “And you? How long have you been divorced?”
“Well, let’s see,” she said looking down at her fork, “Bethany is now eight, so eight years.”
“You divorced just as she was born?” he said, horrified.
“Before. Well, started proceedings. As soon as Rob found out it was going to be another girl he said, “Enough of this crap,” and left. My take is that he wanted a son, but it could have been a coincidence that his girlfriend had a boy before Bethany was even born.”
Victor frowned. “I truly hate men who do that sort of thing. Gives the rest of us a bad name.”
She smiled. “Rob was nothing like you, Victor, I know that for a fact.”
“How do you know?”
“Easy,” she said, taking a small bite, chewing slowly then saying, “You’ve been up here several years, but the only person anyone’s seen you with is Violet. You could have dated every single woman in town...and some married ones too. That tells me you’re not a rounder.”
Victor cleared his throat and took a drink of water. “Did you know he was cheating on you?”
A faraway look entered her eyes. “You know, thinking back, I should have, but I wasn’t well during my pregnancy—horrible morning sickness—so I didn’t pay him much attention. Not much choice with a toddler to care for at the same time.”
“My ex hated being pregnant. She had the same thing, morning sickness that lasted all day. I felt very bad that I did that to her, but I so wanted kids.”
Helen’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know you had a kid!”
“Two boys,” he said.
“Really? Why didn’t anybody tell me that?” she said.
“Wasn’t important? They are mostly grown by now. Simon’s in medical school and Ronnie’s starting at Columbia in the new year.”
“Wow, that’s amazing,” she said. “Do you get to see them much?”
“Not as much as I’d like. They have their own lives now. That happens when they grow up. They did both come up recently when their grandmother had a heart attack. They were very shook up about it, but it was mild and she’s fine now.”
“Nice that you have your mother so close. My parents are out west and I can’t afford to visit them and they can’t visit us due to poor health so…”
“My mother died. Marty is my ex’s mother.”
“Oh, okay,” she said, slightly confused. “I’m surprised you got to see your sons at all then. I would think they would have stayed with their grandmother.”
“Marty asked for me while she was still in the hospital.”
“I’m her lawyer. I drew up her will and she was freaked out. She just wanted reassurance all was well. Plus, my ex was trying to put her in a home and the boys and I were dead-set against that as was Marty. It was five against my ex so we won.”
Helen looked even more confused and she started counting on her fingers. “You and the boys are three and their grandmother is four. Who was number five?”
Victor grabbed his wine glass, took a sip and slowly replaced it before drawing in a deep breath and saying the one name he had promised he would not mention on this his first date of his wife-searching endeavor. “Violet. She helped us convince Marty that she could no longer live alone, but as a home was not right either, she moved into my house.”
He laughed. “No, Marty did.”
Her mouth fell open. “Are you seriously telling me you’re living with your former mother-in-law?”
“Didn’t last long. She eloped to Vegas the next day.”
“How old is she?”
“Old enough. In her seventies. She hooked up with an old boyfriend after decades of being apart and now she’s married to the richest guy in Catalpa Valley and couldn’t be happier. They’re still on honeymoon.”
“Dang! I wanna meet this broad. She must be a hoot.”
Victor laughed. “That she definitely is.”
They ate in silence for bit all the while Helen studied him. “Victor, I want to ask a very personal question, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer it. I just need to ask though.”
He put down his fork, put his napkin to his lips, took up his water glass, then bracingly said, “Shoot.”
“What happened between you and Violet? Everyone thought for sure you two would be married by now. I actually heard you were engaged.” She noticed his stiff continence right away and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Victor. You don’t have to answer.”
“Yes, I should,” he said quietly, staring at the dark liquid in the glass in front of him. “If this is to go anywhere, I should be upfront and honest.”
She reached over and touched the back of his hand. “We can talk about other things for now. There’s time for total honesty later…much later if we’re smart!” she said, trying to make him laugh.
He stared at her slim, pale, well-manicured fingers. They reminded him of Catherine’s hands. Perhaps that may have been why he felt no desire to grasp it as he certainly would have done had it belonged to Violet. Instead he pulled his hand out from under hers and looked up.
“I think it’s the lack of honesty that gets us in trouble. As a lawyer, I know it,” he said, staring into her pretty eyes. “I’m too old to play games, Helen.”
“Like scrabble? That’s too bad. The girls and I love board games,” she said, trying again to lighten the mood.
He smiled slightly. “Good to know, but to answer your question, I did ask Violet to marry me, several times in fact, and I thought we were finally, really engaged and would soon marry,” he said, pausing to shake his head.
“How could she possibly say no to you?” Helen mumbled, as if saying it to herself.
“Apparently all too easily,” he said wistfully. “I don’t think she’s capable of loving another man, other than her dead husband, I mean.”
“Excuse me?” he said, taken aback.
“I’ve seen you with her around town, Victor. I’ve seen how you are together. Everyone has. There’s love there, on both sides. You’re still in love with her now, aren’t you? And I’ll bet she’s still in love with you.”
He cleared his throat again and looked down. “No, she’s not. Not sure she ever was. As for me, it may take some time, but I’ll get over it.” He hoped he sounded more convincing than his own ears perceived. “Like I said, I’m too old to play these usual dating games where we hide who we truly are. There’s no sense in that.”
“I dunno, you might not like the real me. I can be awfully snarky,” she said, with a grimace.
He smiled. “Bring it on. I can be snarky, too, I’ve been told.”
“I don’t believe that,” she said, propping her chin on her hand again. “I’m guessing you’re almost perfect.”
“Please, don’t say that, Helen,” he pleaded. “It’s a long way to drop from atop a pedestal that tall and flimsy.”
“Don’t worry,” she said grinning. “I’ll catch you.”
They stared at each other while the wait staff came and took their plates.
“Well, there is no use going out to eat if you don’t have a decadent dessert, am I right?” Helen said.
“I quite agree, Madam,” the waiter said politely.
“Tiramisu,” she said, Looking across the table at Victor. “And a cappuccino, please.”
“What would your second choice be?” Victor asked.
“Why?” she asked suspiciously. “You’re not thinking I’ll share my tiramisu with you, surely. Then you will see me snarky!”
Victor forced a smile and tried not to recall how Violet and he shared dessert on their first date and almost every date thereafter. “Well then, I better get the chocolate cake and keep it all to myself.”
Helen giggled. “I never said I wouldn’t try to steal some of your dessert.”
“I see how it’s going to be,” he said, holding a hand out to her as he stood up. “Perhaps I can distract you from thoughts of stealing my dessert with a dance?”
Her eyes brightened and she leapt to her feet. “How did you know?”
“Know what?” he asked, leading her to the dance floor.
“I’m mad for dancing. It's my greatest weakness. Haven’t done it in so long,” she said. Stepping into his arms and smiling up at him she added with a conspiratorial wink, “Here’s a bit of honesty for you. I’ll gladly give up some of my dessert for a dance.”
“Ah…interesting twist of events,” he replied, noticing how much taller than Violet she was. “You just revealed a potent secret which I dare say I may use to my advantage.”
She laughed and snuggled closer. “I sure hope so.”
They danced to the slow music in silence. Victor tried not to think about Violet, but it was impossible. Helen’s curly hair brushed against his cheek, which he liked and it did make him smile, but it didn’t have the clean fresh scent of wildflowers like Violet’s, nor was it as soft. He couldn’t help recalling how Violet would always hum along to the music while dancing with him, without realizing she was doing it. He missed that. Helen’s perfume was a tad too heavy for his liking as well.
This was not good. He had to stop dwelling on Violet and concentrate on getting to know Helen.
“Is your hair naturally curly?” he heard himself say, and could have kicked himself for such a vapid question to ask. Much to his surprise, though, she laughed.
“Depends…do you like it?” she said, giggling in his ear. “In an attempt to be honest, since that is what you want, yes, it is naturally curly. I’ve spent half my life trying to change it, but after having kids and finding it far too much trouble to attempt, we’re stuck with curly.”
“It suits you,” he said.
“I hope so. I’ve been accused of trying to look like Taylor Swift,” she said, then leaned back to look into Victor’s face. “Do you know who Taylor Swift is?”
“Yep, Ronnie was in love with her for a split second,” he said with a laugh.
“Well, I was annoyed. As if she invented the look! I’ll show you my school pictures from day one, decades before that curly haired, little missy was a twinkle in her mama’s eye. I done it first!”
“So, you’re the original? Good to know,” he said.
“Well, just don’t ask me to sing,” she said making a goofy face. “It’ll make your ears curl.”
“Yikes!” he said, which made her laugh.
They lapsed into silence again swaying to the music. “If you like Taylor Swift, I was probably right,” Victor said.
“About what?” she asked titling her head to the side to look at him.
“You’re probably too young for me,” he said.
“Too young?” she scoffed. “Pfft, I hardly think so, Victor. How old do you think I am? And do be kind.”
“You can’t be any older than… thirty-two, at best?”
Her eyes widened. “Seriously? No, Victor, try adding five.”
He gaped at her. She was only one year younger than Violet. “Must be the cutie-pie hair,” he muttered.
“That does it,” she said shaking her head. “I’ll never straighten my hair, not ever!”
He laughed and they kept dancing.
“So, Victor, what do you want?” she asked, when the music changed and they started to walk back to their table.
“Share your dessert with me too much to ask?”
She tried to look serious and shook her head. “Maybe…one taste—a tiny one-- for one more dance?”
He grinned and twirled her back onto the dance floor. “Two more dances and I share my chocolate cake with you and I get one tiny taste of your tiramisu.”
“Deal!” she said, laughing herself silly. “I got the better of that deal.”
“You think so, huh?” he said, suddenly dipping her so she was horizontal with the floor and mere inches away from it. “I would have given you all my dessert for two dances.”
She gasped when he swiftly straightened her up and they were nose to nose. “I kinda liked that,” she whispered. She stared at him, then reached up placing a hand on his cheek and kissed him. “What else do you want, Victor? I’m feeling very generous right now.”
He knew he could say just about anything and she’d be okay with it. He was a millimeter away from doing it, but he also knew a tumble in the sheets was not going to get him what he truly wanted, and it certainly wasn’t going to get Violet out of his head. Not two minutes passed all evening without her passing his mind, and that’s with him trying not to think of her!
He forced a smile, pulled Helen closer so her chin rested on his shoulder and continued dancing. She did feel good in his arms and her breath against his skin felt nice. She sighed and was now moving sensually against him, sending a primal thrill through him. He certainly could imagine making love to her. She wouldn’t fight him, as Violet always did. He knew that better than he knew his own name. Helen would be all in and probably adventurous, demanding and sexy as hell.
But was she what he wanted?
©2013 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved