Violet muttered an unladylike curse as she turned into her driveway and found Freddy in his car waiting for her. “Blast that man! Why can’t he go down to the bar and have a beer and watch a game with the guys like normal men, instead of wasting his breath on his pathetic sister?”
He glared at her as they both emerged from their cars. “Where were you? I told you I was coming over. I’ve been waiting for over an hour, and why the hell don’t you ever answer your phone?”
“Nice to see you too,” She grumbled. “I was out delivering Halloween costumes, if you must know,” she added heading toward the house. “I told you I didn’t have time to chat. I still have loads of baking to do for tomorrow’s party.”
“So, the party’s still on then?” Freddy said, following her into the house.
“Of course. I wouldn’t disappoint the kids.”
“Exactly what Victor said,” he said, shrugging out of his overcoat and hanging it on the banister before following Violet to the kitchen which already smelled like a bakery. He let out an appreciative groan and reached for a spider-shaped cookie, only to get his hand slapped away. “Hey! It’s just one cookie.”
“Oh, you think I don’t know you by now? You’ll eat them all if I let you and I won’t! They are for tomorrow,” she sternly retorted. “So, what is so darn important? How is the baby? Laurie okay?”
“They’re perfect. Baby Richie is my favorite kid so far,” he said, sneaking a cookie and taking a bite before she could do anything more than growl at him.
“That’s a terrible thing to say. What if the other kids hear you?”
Freddy laughed. “Too late. I told them Baby Richie is the best cuz he lets us sleep, but I also told them what we liked best about each of them, so maybe I haven’t scarred them for life yet. But the baby’s the crankiest little thing before he decides to drop off to sleep. It’s the weirdest thing, Vi. He screams his little head off for about an hour every night. It’s as if we’re pinching him, beating him or something and nothing will shut him up. Not food, not swaddling, not diaper changing, not music, not a warm bath, not even a car ride. And all of a sudden he stops cold and you’d think he just dropped dead of exhaustion or something. Sound asleep for six or seven hours straight after that. Bizarre!”
“He’s overstimulated,” Violet said, shrugging. “Happens with boys sometimes, because they have a less developed…” She stopped herself before she went on for hours about babies, as she often does. “But anyway. He’ll get over that in a few weeks.”
“It’s a pity you and Richie didn’t have more kids. You’re so good with them,” Freddy said.
She made an impatient huffing sound. “I’m sure that is not what you came to talk about. So what is it?” She put on the tea kettle then went to the pantry and extracted her baking supplies.
Freddy, in the meantime-- while her back was turned--took three more cookies and stuffed them into his pocket. “I heard you were sick. Nice of you to keep that from me,” he said, rather casually.
“That’ll teach me to go to a town doctor and his big-mouth nurse/wife who has no idea that doctor patient confidentiality means her being quiet too,” she groused, as she pulled out her mixer from under the cabinet and slammed it onto the counter.
“I didn’t hear it from them. Victor told me when I barged into his office ready to kill him when I accused him of two-timing you,” he said, taking a bite from this second cookie.
She gasped. “You didn’t!”
“Course I did,” he said, marveling that each cookie seemed to be better than the last one. “I heard he went out with Helen Gibson and I was going to kill him for you, just like that time I thought Rich was screwing around on you.”
“When was this?” Violet said, as she spooned shortening into a measuring cup.
“Oh, years back. When he was doing those odd jobs for that cute little widow…forget her name now. You know the one, She wore those tiny shorts and low cut tops, making all the teenage boys drool down at the little league field, but anyway, when I heard some old biddies saying there was some funny goings on over there I assumed they meant with Richie. Turns out she was screwing Greg Williams and when his wife found out…well, she wasn’t too happy about it. There was a huge fight right at a little league game…one calling the other a whore bitch and the other, well, you can guess. Had to get the kids outta there…what a mess!”
“Glad I missed that,” she said, her eye wide. “And you thought Richard…what did he say when you confronted him?”
“He laughed his head off,” Freddy said. “He said something like, “Are you nuts, man? Me cheat on Violet with that sleazy little tramp? Greg wasn’t the only one she was doing, you know.” he said he’d sooner chop of his…uh…little Richie and feed it to the dog.”
“Um, sounds like Richard, all right,” she mumbled, going back to her baking, adding sugar, brown sugar and vanilla to the mixing bowl.
He stole another cookie and stared at her. “Vi, what happened?”
“With what?” she asked, scraping the bowl with a knife until the mix was light and fluffy.
“You and Victor,” he said.
She drew in a steadying breath. “And here I thought you were concerned about my health,” she said in a snippy voice.
“Would you tell me if I asked? You’ve yet to volunteer any information,” he said, frowning at her. “I gave you ample opportunity to do so.”
She cracked an egg into a bowl them dumped it into the sugar mixture. She repeated this three more times then said, “It was nothing really.”
Freddy narrowed his eyes. “Oh yeah? Dangerously low, Vi. Victor told me your blood pressure was dangerously low. Pardon me but that don’t sound too nothing to me!” he angrily spat out.
She shifted uncomfortably as she spooned flour into a measuring cup. “As always he exaggerated,” she replied. When Freddy merely lifted a disbelieving eyebrow she was forced to add, “I’m on medication now. It’s under control.”
“And the vertigo? You hadn’t had a problem with that since before Richie died. Why did it get so bad all of a sudden?”
“It wasn’t all of a sudden,” she said before she could stop herself.
“How long?” he said, glaring at her.
“It... it wasn’t all that bad.”
“Violet….tell me,” he growled.
“We were swimming all summer and I got water in my ear and… that was all there was to it.”
“It’s fricken October! You’re telling me you’ve been having vertigo spells since the summer?” he shouted.
“Not the whole time! It comes and goes, but that is under control too.”
Freddy ran frustrated fingers through his thinning hair wished to use them to strangle her. “And the blood tests? What came of them?”
Here she stiffened, her temper simmering to a boil. “My, my, it’s quite a miracle my ears aren’t a-blaze from all this talking behind my back, especially when Victor has no right to know any of this, as is his contention,” she muttered through clenched teeth.
“He may not, but I do!” Freddy yelled, stepping in front of the mixer and turning it off, before facing her, grabbing the measuring cup full of flour and dumping the whole thing into the mixture.
“Freddy! What are you doing?” she shrieked.
“Getting answers and don’t you dare tell me it’s none of my business,” he said. “Okay, Victor may have been out of line—not that I think he was, mind you, being he’s in love with you and rightfully thought you were engaged--but that aside, I’m your brother, your only family besides Kenny and Sophie. You have to tell me when you’re ill.”
“I’m not…not anymore,” she insisted.
“Vi, if you don’t tell me everything right now, I swear I will break into Doc Gifford’s office tonight and steal your medical records myself. I’d prefer you told me so I don’t end up in jail away from my wife and kids.”
“I’m fine… or will be with a new diet and exercise and staying with my medication and…and…. I’m fine,” she insisted, fighting the sudden urge to cry.
“Oh, Violet,” he mumbled pulling her into his arms. “Why do you do this?”
Her answer was to break down completely which of course made her incoherent. Freddy soothed her as well as he could, but it took quite a while until her sobbing changed to mere sniffling.
“It’s because of Mom. You’re afraid you’ll…be like her, but you won’t.”
“You can’t know that,” she whispered, pulling away from him and taking a cloth napkin to wipe her face.
“How I wish Richie was here now. None of this would happen if he was here. He could always make you see reason.”
True enough, Violet thought, but there was no changing the facts. Richard was not here…and neither was Victor… and that was entirely her fault.
As if reading her thoughts, Freddy gently pushed her into a chair and sat across from her, holding onto her hands. “Tell me what happened between you and Victor. None of this is really about your illness. So just tell me why?”
“Violet, Victor loves you…”
“And I hurt him,” she mumbled.
“Worse. You insulted him,” Freddy said.
“What?” she said, genuinely surprised.
“His intelligence, yes, and you’re insulting mine if you expect me to believe that you and Victor are just friends. That is what you told him, isn’t it? That’s what sent him into the arms of another woman. I already told him Helen is three kinds of crazy, but I suspect he needs to find that out on his own. I don’t know if it’s a ploy to get you jealous or if he really is thinking she’ll make a good wife and mother for his soon to be adopted kids. Whatever, he still is in love with you and I know you love him too.”
“I don’t…that’s not exactly what I said,” she said.
“Than what exactly did you say?”
“I… meant to say… I think I said, um… that he was my best friend…I think,” she said, convincing not even herself.
“Best friend?” he said, letting go of her hands, leaning back in his chair and sighing. “Don’t you know that’s the death knell for men?”
“Richard was my best friend too, and he didn’t… he didn’t run off to be with some…”
“Crazy ass bitch. You can say it,” Freddy said.
“He accused me of being… judgemental when I tried to tell him about her,” she said.
Freddy frowned. “Wait, he was dating her before you broke up?”
“No, uh…I don’t think so. He met her at the store and he told me he invited her to the party and I said she would probably show up in some completely inappropriate costume, and…well, I guess that was his cue to go out with her. I haven’t been…the perfect girlfriend, after all.”
“True enough, but at least you’re admitting you were his girlfriend and that you’re in love with him.”
“And I’m not in love with him!”
“Yeah, you are. I remember how you look when you’re in love. I was there for Richie, and though I’m far more removed, I’m still witness to you with Victor.”
“If he’s said…it’s all a lie then!”
“He hasn’t said anything and I doubt it very much anyway. I know you, Vi. You don’t go away on a romantic trip, first to New York for his birthday and then to Niagara Falls, if you have nothing but friendship on your mind.”
“He tells you everything I see,” she said, biting her bottom lip.
“No, just enough for me to come to my own conclusions,” he said. “You’re too prim and proper to go off with some guy if you weren’t serious about him. So, logically, I thought you’d come back from Niagara Falls with an engagement ring and an announcement. I thought maybe the baby being born postponed that.”
“What am I wrong about?”
“I’m not as virtuous as you think I am. It was just… it was just… sex,” she said, blushing bright pink.
He tried to hide his smile, but couldn’t manage it. “Really? You used him for sex, you’re telling me? Like you used Richie?”
“You know, how you accidently on purpose got pregnant so Rich would marry you and Dad wouldn’t make you go off to college,” he said shrewdly.
“I did no such thing!” she exploded.
He stared at her indignant face. “You know it’s over two decades ago, Kenny’s on his own and probably making babies of his own as we speak, so, you can tell me the truth. It won’t make a bit of difference.”
“I am telling the truth! I didn’t try to get pregnant. I just…wanted to give Richard something to remember me by.”
Freddy grinned. “Well, he sure did remember that and the aftermath.”
She covered her face with her hands. “I can’t believe you thought I tried to trap him, that I did it on purpose. Richard told me I couldn’t get pregnant the first time so…”
“Holy crap, you didn’t actually fall for that old line!” he said, laughing his head off. “Didn’t even use protection I’ll bet, not that it always works. Baby Richie is proof of that.”
“Uh…” she said, looking both confused and foolish.
“Well, maybe I was pinning this all on the wrong person all this time.”
“Pretty sure Richard knew exactly what he was doing then. He found his ideal girl and he wasn’t letting Dad take you away from him, even if he had to do something somewhat devious. It all turned out good.”
Violet blinked stupidly. “You think Richard… on purpose?”
“I know it now,” he retorted. “Pity Victor didn’t think of it.”
“Victor seems more caring about my reputation, I suppose,” she mumbled.
Freddy took her hands again. “Can you tell Victor this?”
“Why does he need to know what Richard may or may not have done?” she asked indignantly.
“No, Vi, about this best friends thing. I’m sure he didn’t understand what you meant. A guy hears the word friend from a woman he’s madly in love with and he just goes ballistic. You have to explain it to him so he can understand.”
“Doesn’t matter anymore. He’s with Helen. She’s got her claws in him now and you know she never lets go until … until…”
“He’s a lawyer. I think he may know a thing or two about restraining orders, if it comes to that. It was just one date, Vi. He probably already regrets it and one word from you will get him back.”
“What if I don’t want him back?”
Freddy gaped at her. “Why not? You don’t think he slept with her already.”
She drew in a deep breath and stood up. “If I know Helen, then yes, but that’s not why. He wants to get married and I don’t. It’s too soon. I still feel Richard. He’s still here. I know you won’t believe me or you’ll think I’m nuts, but he’s still here and I can’t be with Victor, and love him as he ought to be loved if Richard is still… I just can’t. It’s simply not fair to him. That is why we broke up and there is no fixing that.”
“Yes, there is,” Richard shouted. “You have to let me go. Just let me go!”
Pity no one could hear that.
Photo credit: Glory Lennon
©2013 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved