Violet’s memory sent her back to summer, back to Long Island and back to Victor.
He was kissing her again and he heard his name. Faint as it was over the sound of the waves and carried away on the wind, he ignored it. Violet, however, heard it clearly, and pushed him away.
“Someone’s calling you, Victor,” she said, looking about. She struggled with her hair blowing into her eyes, which nearly blinded her, and spotting a tall man whose own golden locks kept flying into his face blown by the same persistent breeze. It was obviously annoying him, too. He stood several yards away on the boardwalk, coming toward them. He stopped short of the stairs and stared down at them with an imperious expression on his face, as if he expected Victor to drop everything and jump to his summons.
“Damn the man. He thinks he’s God,” Victor muttered angrily.
“Who is he? Another client or, let me guess, a politician? Don’t they all think of us as their personal minions?” she said, already disliking the man.
“Don’t give him any ideas, whatever you do, or we’ll be calling him Senator! Yep, just another ultra-rich jerk out to concur the world,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Will you come with me? I’ll introduce you. Could be of benefit to you.”
“Oh, you know…maybe he’ll buy you a penthouse or something.”
Now she rolled her eyes. “Sounds like someone I know.”
Victor laughed. “I have never offered to buy you a penthouse, but let me know when you want one. I’ll mortgage my house for it.”
“Pul-lease!” she said.
“Come with me, Violet. You can be my excuse for getting away sooner. Please?” he pleaded.
She looked to the ocean then back at the angry looking man and shook her head. “I’ll stay here, thanks. It’s my first time near the ocean, Victor, and I want it to last me forever. Who knows when or if I’ll see it again? I can meet your friends some other time.”
“First, he’s not my friend, and second, I can bring you back to see the ocean anytime you wish,” he said, lifting her hand and kissing it.
“Romanoff, might I have a moment of your time? I haven’t got all day!” shouted the man at the top of the stairs, glancing impatiently at his Rolex.
“At least he’s important enough to get himself heard over the waves,” Violet said giggling.
“Bastard,” Victor muttered, as he indicated to the man he’d be right with him.
“Go, I’ll wait for you here… unless a wave comes and sweeps me out to sea,” she said, giving him a little push.
Coming back to the present, Violet’s eyes grew as wide as they would go staring at Mr. Van Gholston who happened to be grinning at her now. “That was you?” Violet asked, stupidly.
He nodded and looked very different from his grumpy self on that windy beach front property.
“On the boardwalk, yes, that was me. Sorry I interrupted your first time at the ocean, but I had a helicopter waiting for me and needed to talk to Romanoff before I did. I was not in the best of moods, so it might have been a good thing you didn’t meet me just then. I wanted his professional advice on dealing with a certain photographer for a sleazy tabloid who was… well, never mind that.”
He suddenly turned toward her extending his hand as if only just meeting now for the very first time. “Congratulations are in order,” he said.
“I…uh…why do you say that?” Violet said, staring at his hand as if it were a venomous snake ready to strike.
“Your engagement. Romanoff told me…” His smile faded when his eyes drifted to her left hand where he expected to see a huge rock, but instead found only her old, plain wedding band. “Are you married now?”
“Uh…no, I…no, we’re not engaged. This…this is my wedding band from my one and only marriage,” she said.
“I see,” he said, briefly glancing at his own wedding ring, turning his eyes toward the sound of the sea and sighing deeply. With darkness fully fallen now, only the faint moon hidden by a mass of fluffy clouds illuminated the night. “You can’t let go any better than I can. That’s it, isn’t it?”
She could have pretended to misunderstand, but what was the use in doing that? “Even if I could, I won’t. I made a solemn vow never to forget Richard and I nearly did.” She paused to swallow hard. “This summer I got wrapped up in so much… so many new experiences that I forgot … almost forgot Richard and my promise to him. I’ve come to my senses though.”
“Have you?” he muttered to himself. “I wonder.”
“Pardon?” she said, having not heard.
“Did you make this promise on his deathbed… if you don’t mind my asking?” he asked quietly.
“No, he was a fire fighter. He died saving a little girl and her dog from a burning building which collapsed on top of him. I didn’t…I just…”
“I understand and I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, turning away from the beach. “Might we sit down for a bit?”
Without waiting for an answer he led her to a round marble table lit with several candles and surrounded by cushioned seats of wrought iron. He helped her into her seat before sitting across from her. They sat in silence for several minutes both of them gazing into the candle flames.
At long last, he seemed to come out of his thoughts and forced a smile. “Seems we’re in the same boat, Mrs. Bennett,” he said.
“Violet. You should call me Violet,” she answered.
“All right… Violet,” he said. “Your daughter said it’s been over a year since your husband died?”
“Yes, the sixth of June was one year,” she replied. “Much longer for you, I guess…since your wife died, I mean.”
“Hmm,” he said, distractedly. “But guilt has a way of making it seem…”
“Like yesterday?” she asked.
He smiled slowly. “Well, maybe not that bad, but still relatively fresh… and painful.”
If they had been close friends instead of near strangers, Violet might have asked why he felt guilty after so long, but had they been close friends, she might not have had to. She would just know. After all, she knew about the painful part.
“How ironic,” she mumbled softly.
“Yes, you would think it would go away or fade or something, but it doesn’t, at least not in my case,” he said, taking in a deep breath as if to brace himself. “Doesn’t help I have a constant reminder.”
“Scott…I mean, your son?” Violet said.
He gave her a sharp glance, but swiftly looked away. “Among other things,” he said vaguely.
She stared at him for a long while. He seemed to be getting more remote and morose by the minute. She didn’t know if what she wanted to say would help or possibly—more likely in fact—send him further into this abyss, but she felt compelled to do it either way.
“Mr. Van Gholston, I don’t…”
“Laurence, please. If I get to call you Violet, you must call me Laurence,” he said.
“Okay… Laurence,” she said, frowning slightly. “I don’t mean to butt my nose where it doesn’t belong, but do you think it wise to give a kid so much money all at once? I mean, I know he’s ‘of age’ and everything, but that doesn’t mean a thing if he is still too young and immature to be able to handle it. I am not saying he’s irresponsible or anything. I don’t know him well enough to make that assessment, and I don’t know how much he will get in his inheritance, but…”
“Several million,” he interjected carelessly. “He would never have to worry about money…ever unless he was supremely foolish.”
Violet gasped, staring at him speechless for quite a while, long enough to calculate how much that could possibly be and wondering if that included the value of the mansion? She didn’t realize she had been holding her breath the whole time until her lungs begged for some air.
“I see. That’s even worse than I thought,” she mumbled. “Do you have any idea what sort of trouble he could get into with that type of free-flowing money? And taking his friends along with him…one of whom is my daughter. Just look at Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears and all those other kids with too much money, too little self-control, no parental control to speak of and not enough common sense or experience to make good decisions. Justin Beiber is close to the same age as Rance and he’s totally out of control! Do you want your son…”
“Of course I don’t want him to end up a drug addicted, pot-smoking, washed-out has-been before he does anything useful with his life!” he shouted, running frustrated fingers through his blond hair making it stick out at odd angles.
Violet gulped and pressed her lips together. Once again she had gone too far. Someone really ought to tell her when it was prudent to keep quiet.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Richard said, laughing in her ear.
“I’m sorry,” they both said together.
Laurence took in a deep breath. “I didn’t mean to be short with you, Violet,” he said. “You can’t understand the frustration of having your only child go astray, to lead a life so very different than the one you wished for him.”
“I can imagine. I don’t want this for Sophie either, but… I wouldn’t ordinarily worry about someone else’s kid so much except that my kid is one of his best friends and where he goes…”
“I understand,” he said. “I do.”
“No, I don’t think you do. How can you say that when it’s been how long since you’ve been involved in his life? You have no clue what he’s been up to, do you?”
He looked ready to explode as he tented his fingers in front of his mouth and stared into the candle flames again. “You don’t really think I have allowed Rance free reign, do you?”
“Haven’t you?” she said. “He’s been on his own for five years. That’s what he told me.”
“He thinks he has,” Laurence said evasively.
“Which means what?” Violet asked.
He suddenly leaned forward and lowered his voice, needlessly being they were entirely alone. “If I told you, I would have to kill you,” he said, smirking.
Violet’s expressive eyes widened fearfully.
“I’m kidding, Violet,” he said.
“You’ll excuse me if I don’t believe you,” she muttered, looking back to the house and wondering when someone would come outside to rescue her. She wasn’t a very good swimmer, after all—not with cement shoes anyway--and she couldn’t exactly run in heels or in the sand if it came to that.
“I see I shouldn’t joke with you,” he muttered, looking as if wishing he could kick himself. “I meant that I would hope…beg you if need be… not to reveal my… my secret.”
“What secret?” she asked tentatively.
“ I’m about to tell you something—against my better judgement, mind you—but I have the feeling it’s the only thing which might appease you and stop you from thinking of me as some uncaring, unfeeling monster, especially in regard to my son…and even my wife.”
“I don’t see why you should care what I think of you,” she said, unable to stop herself, but wishing she could.
“Well, I do,” he said testily, grinding his back teeth together.
He sat in silent contemplation for so long Violet thought he decided against telling her anything, which in truth, was fine with her.
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