Victor frowned as he watched Violet gathering things from the living room, bowls, dishes and half empty cups for the kitchen and trash can. She looked like a zombie the way she moved around on automatic. Something was definitely wrong with her, but he couldn’t tell what it was. He had thought it was something to do with Catherine—knowing his ex to be a nasty piece of work when she wanted to be-- but now he wasn’t so certain. Violet had been a bit off even before his ex and Andy had shown up.
Whatever it was Violet didn’t want to talk about it, not with him anyway. But she was willing to…well, not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why had she nearly attacked him as she had that stormy night in the hotel? Victor had the feeling she wouldn’t have objected to going upstairs and going further had he asked…before the bizarre lounge chair incident, of course.
What in the world had caused that, he still couldn’t imagine, but it certainly had spooked Violet. He half smiled. She had a “I do believe in spooks” look about her still. Could it just be that?
He watched her and considered it. She almost dropped a bowl of candy corn, noticing her hands were shaking. She really was a wreck. Should he try to seduce her, get her in the mood for romance again, he wondered? Just to get her mind off the ghosts in the house, of course!
“Sure, that’s the reason,” Richard grumbled, and punched him in the arm. “What a humanitarian you are, Cowboy!”
Victor frowned, rubbing his arm. He got a definite chill going up his arm just then. He couldn’t explain it nor understand why, but coupled with the lounge chair incident, he almost would think there were real ghosts around here.
How ridiculous! He shook his head, laughed at his wild imagination and chalked it up to the season. It was Halloween, after all, all Hallows Eve, the night of the living dead or some such. Scary stuff was supposed to happen tonight, so why not a spook in the house?
He could almost hear his sons’ “Tolja so, Dad!”
“Simon would love that,” he muttered to himself.
“I’m sorry,” Violet said, turning to look at him. “Did you say something?”
“Oh…yes, I was thinking that Simon and Ronnie would have loved the party,” Victor said, going to her and placing an arm around her waist. “Of course, there wouldn’t have been enough food for the rest of us if they’d been here.”
Violet smiled, slipped out of his arms and went to the kitchen with a large, nearly full candy bowl and what was left of a fancy fruit arrangement Marty insisted on bringing. “I’m surprised the kids eat more fruit than candy.”
“Yeah, well, the whipped cream, fudge sauce and caramel dip helped,” he said, following her with more stuff for the trash.
“True,” she said, placing the fruit on the counter and wondering what to do with this tiny bit. There were only a few skewers of strawberries, melon balls and grapes left.
Reading her mind, Victor said, “We should eat this. It’s not much.”
“Okay,” she said grabbing two skewers and handing one to him.
“I’ve got a better idea,” he said, placing his hands around her waist again, pulling her closer. “We can take this and the whipped cream and go upstairs and… play.”
She stared up at him, decadent visions springing to mind. She was more than half tempted to take him up on the offer, but gosh-darn-it, hadn’t she just promised herself that they were done with this sordid relationship? He had started dating, after all. What did he need with her when he could have…
“What? a crazy girlfriend?” Richard said, laughing out loud. “You have to be kidding!”
Heidi glared at him until he stopped laughing then turned to Violet. “That’s not the question to ask, dear,” she whispered. “The question to ask yourself is why are you pushing away something you both need and want?”
Victor took her silence for what it was, indecision. If she couldn’t decide what to do, then, it would behoove him to help her make the right decision, would it not? He put the fruit aside, then took her into his arms and started at her neck, kissing a trail to her lips, all the while his hands roaming over her poofy dress. He found the zipper and pulled it down, lowering the shoulders to continue his kissing trail.
“You drive me crazy, Violet,” he mumbled against her skin.
“Yes, I know, I’m sorry,” she whispered breathlessly.
He laughed. “That’s not how I mean,” he said.
“Yes, I know,” she said. “Still sorry.”
“Boy, this cowboy gets around, doesn’t he?” Richard said, to no one in particular. “Hopping from one girl to another plus kissing his ex-wife, all in just one day. Maybe Reverend Louis is right. Elvis’ ghost has risen and taken up space here in good old Catalpa Valley.”
Violet heard this, of course, and slowly pushed away from Victor. “I forgot. Won’t your girlfriend get jealous? I think so and she might burn down the house,” she said, trying to clear her head. She hated herself for being so easy.
“Stop that!” Victor snapped. “You know she meant nothing to me. I admit I was being ridiculous trying to replace you, in a stupid fit of anger no less, but it didn’t work, needless to say. It’s you I want, Violet. No one else will do. Can’t you understand that?”
She stepped back and her dress nearly fell to the floor. She grabbed it just in time and held it to her chest. “Guess I should change, now that I’m half naked.”
“Or we can go all naked upstairs,” Victor suggested, knowing perfectly well that wasn’t going to fly right now.
She shook her head sadly and went into the laundry room where she had left her regular clothes.
“Why don’t I just give up?” Victor mumbled to himself.
“Good question…We all should,” Richard grumbled.
“You are determined to ruin everything, aren’t you?” Heidi snapped.
“How the hell am I supposed to know when and what they hear?” Richard said.
“How about staying quiet!” she shouted. “You’re an absolute menace!”
“How about I go and leave you to handle it then?” Richard said, and he floated through the wall and almost went through Violet as she entered the bathroom to change. He hesitated a moment and followed her inside.
For several minutes she stood at the sink leaning on it, looking down. It was only when she wiped at her face that he realized she was silently crying.
“Aww, Honey, don’t cry. Please don’t,” he said, wrapping his arms around her. To his astonishment, his arms didn’t swipe through her like mist. Instead he could feel her, real live flesh on flesh. He could smell her light perfume, feel her soft hair tickle his cheek. This was heaven… or was it? She couldn’t feel him. Or so he thought.
Violet closed her eyes and sighed. She knew it. Richard was here. She could feel him as if he was flesh and blood again. It had been Richard all along. It was he who—upset that she was with Victor, throwing herself at him— moved the lounge chair to show his displeasure.
“Oh, Richard, I’m sorry, but I miss being held,” she mumbled.
Taken aback for a minute, Richard at first thought he imagined it, but no, she was talking to him… but could she hear him?
“I miss that too, Violet,” he said.
“I love you, Richard. I never stopped, even if it looks like I did.”
She did hear him! He held her closer. “I know, I love you, too… so much, babe, but I don’t know what to do, how to help you. I don’t think I can take much more of this. It’s torture for me, it’s worse than hell. Maybe it is hell. I just didn’t think I was that bad of a guy for hell. Maybe I was and didn’t know it…. maybe ‘cause I didn’t give you what you wanted. You deserve better than me.”
“No, that’s not true,” Violet whispered. “You were everything I ever wanted. I’d do anything to have you back. I love you, Richard. I always will.”
“I know, baby, but I can’t come back. You can’t have me anymore, so…so, you gotta let me go,” he said.
“I can’t. I just can’t,” she said, her lips trembling, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“You gotta try, Violet.”
“I am trying…was trying,” she whined. “But… you and me were so perfect together. I can’t forget that.”
“Dammit, Violet,” Richard shouted. “Stop thinking only of the good times and remember all the crap I put you through. There was tons of it and you know it!”
She shook her head. “Liar. We were good, very good together. We loved each other despite…little… hiccups. Nothing could be better.”
Richard dropped his head into his hands. “Little hiccups? You’re not trying hard enough to see the truth! You have a great guy right in front of you. He’s rich, he’s good looking, he’s…he’s everything I’m not and he’s alive and he’s doing everything for you, everything to please you. He’s bent over backwards for you and I know you like him, so what’s the problem?”
She shrugged. “You mean besides that I promised never to forget you and that’s what he wants?”
“It was a stupid thing to promise. I begged you not to if you remember,” he said. “I told you to find a good man to care for you and love you, and you’ve done it…so just… just… marry the guy and be done with me. Tell me good-bye and I’ll be gone and you can live …happy ever after.”
“Cuz…I had that with you and cuz…he’s not you,” she mumbled, wiping a tear as it streamed down her cheek.
There was a soft knock at the door just then. “Violet, are you all right? You’ve been in there a longtime,” Victor said.
“Yes, I…my zipper was stuck for a minute,” she lied, wiping at her wet face.
“Need help?” he asked.
“No, I got it now,” she said, quickly slipping into her jeans.
Fists clenched at his side, Richard turned away from her, walking through the door and into Victor. “I give up. You hear me, Cowboy?” he said. “She’s all yours. You do what you can with her, cuz I quit. I’ll just stay away and keep quiet and then…well, she’s gotta forget me eventually. I’m not coming back. EVER!”
Heidi watched him zoom out of the house through the ceiling and sighed. “That’s not how it works, Richard, but you need to find that out on your own.”
Violet finally emerged from the bathroom, dressed, her face freshly splashed, but that couldn’t hide the bloodshot eyes.
“Violet, I wish you’d talk to me,” Victor pleaded.
“About what?” she asked stuffing her curly strawberry blonde wig into the bag with the neatly folded, frilly dress.
“Whatever is bothering you, of course,” he said.
“Ask her if she’s taking her medication,” Heidi suggested.
A sudden, disturbing thought occurred to him. “Violet, are your meds making you feel…weird, depressed or unusual in any way?”
“Meds?” she said, frowning slightly. She shook her head. “Oh, no. I’m just tired. Haven’t been sleeping well….Full moon and stuff. I’ve been working extra at Weston all week, because I have to make certain everything’s done before the busy Christmas season. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m taking advantage of my place there. Walter wants it all ready before thanksgiving and I’m determined to do it, even if it kills me. I don’t know how I managed to get time off to go to Miami for a whole week during this time, but I suppose I have you to thank for that. He never says no to me no matter how inconvenient and I’m sure it’s because…”
Victor placed two fingers over her lips. “You’re rambling, Honey,” he said.
“Sorry,” she said. She stared at him and half smiled. He really did make a good Elvis. “I…um…I should go home. Calendula will be hungry and Halloween kinda freaks her out.”
“I wish you’d stay with me tonight,” he said, caressing her cheek, and at last noticing her blotchy skin, a telltale sign she’d been crying. Some invisible force seemed to squeeze his heart. “Please stay.”
“Why?” she asked, before she could stop herself.
“So many reasons,” he said, kissing her softly. “Number one being you always sleep well when you’re with me. You’ve told me so.”
This was true. She always slept better with a warm body next to her. She had told him that and now she wished she hadn’t. She, however, also recalled how she was apt to attack whoever lay beside her. She supposed that was the main reason he wanted her to stay, even if he would never admit it. She looked up at him, expecting to see a lustful expression, and wished she hadn’t looked. His brooding eyes held concern, not desire.
“I’ll be fine… with Calendula,” she said, her heart beating a tad too quick.
“May I take out to dinner tomorrow?” he asked walking her to the kitchen door where her car was parked.
“No, I have to stay late at work and I want to visit… uh… a friend,” she said evasively.
“A friend?” he repeated, watching her with slightly narrowed eyes.
“I won’t get a chance before I leave on vacation and… I should say hello before… while I can,” she said nervously.
“Of course,” he said, now suspecting she would visit Richard’s grave. It only makes sense for her to visit her saintly husband on All Saint’s day, after all. Trying to keep the bitterness to a bare minimum, he added, “Perhaps the next night?”
“I’m sorry, Victor, but I can’t. I have to work overtime all this week and I have so much other stuff to do, packing and such. I’ll call you, okay?” she said, quickly opening the door, stepping out and kicking the shoe box Catherine carelessly had left out there.
“Where did that come from?” Victor asked, stooping down to grab it.
“It…it’s mine,” Violet said, trying to grab it from him, but he held it away from her, looking it over and inside it. Violet held her breath. Had Catherine left the note inside the box?
Victor laughed. “You wear hiking boots in a men’s size eleven, do you?” he said.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Victor,” she said, breathlessly. “I…I had my costume in there before I put it on.”
Victor stared down at the bag in which she now carried her costume. “That so? Good thing you had an extra bag with you then.”
“Yes, I forgot where I put the box, but I’ll use it to store it away…if you’ll let me have it back,” she said, holding her hand out for it.
“Sure,” he said, giving it to her. Before she could leave, he leaned forward and kissed her lips, holding her face in his hand. He then gave her one last penetrating look. “You will tell me what’s going on…sooner or later.”
She shivered, mumbled a goodbye and wished it to be later…much later.
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