Victor sighed as he plopped down on his pillows. He stared up at the ceiling and wished for the gazillionth time that he had someone—we all know who-- warm in the bed next to him.
“You never know...Violet might have stayed tonight, had you bothered to ask,” Heidi said.
“Dream on, ” he muttered to himself.
He had to admit, it had been simultaneous elation and torture to have Violet in the house, but there was nothing to be done about her. She was a lost cause and he really ought to move on.
Question was...how and with whom?
He'd have to find someone to date...several someones perhaps... anyone decent! This life he was leading of the celibate, saintly type was wearing thin. It wasn't going to get him what he wanted and it certainly wasn't going to gain his kids the mother they desperately needed which, as evidenced by the boys hogging Violet at dinner and Georgiana confiding in Violet and not so much in him, was clear to him now. His one attempt with the crazy Helen and her gruesome teenage daughters had failed miserably, but did it follow that another try would bode as ill?
We should hope not! Victor dreaded it, however....the looking for a girlfriend who wouldn't mind him having three kids. Not only wouldn't mind...she would have to love them or it just wouldn't work. No evil, conniving step-mothers need apply, thank you very much! Where the hell was he going to find a woman who could fit all his requirements? Nice looking, intelligent, funny, sweet and she had to love kids...especially his kids.
“You mean someone like Violet?” Heidi whispered in his ear. “Or Violet herself.”
Victor ignored this. Perhaps he could find some down-trodden girl, buy her a whole new wardrobe, take her places she'd never been, show her what he could offer her and reform her? Didn't Richard Gere do as much with Julia Roberts? Worked out for them!
“Ahem...you mean precisely what you did with Violet?” Heidi said.
And there we were back to Violet. Victor groaned then grabbed a pillow and covered his face with it. Perhaps he could die in his sleep and not have to worry about this at all!
He rolled over, turned out the light and forced himself to sleep. Perhaps the answer would come to him in his dreams. He'd often gone to bed with a problem, turning it over in his head as he slept, and in the morning the answer would be right there... along with his morning coffee.
Heidi watched him slip into a dream state, an idea simmering in her own brain. “Yes, I think it might work,” she mumbled.
She floated to the walk-in closet, opened the door and turned to look at her reflection in the mirror hanging on the inside of the door. This outfit –the lovely powder blue suit she loved so well--would never do for the task at hand. She lifted her hand, clicked her fingers and with a loud snap she was now all in black with a stylish pillbox hat perched on her head, a lovely black veil covering her eyes to complete the picture of the mourning widow.
She stood by the window where the full moon reflecting off the snow shone nearly as bright as day. This would give her an ethereal appearance, just as ghosts ought to have to be taken seriously.
“Victor....Victor...Victor...” she said over and over until he awoke with a start.
Victor stared at the apparition by the window. He blinked, rubbed his eyes and blinked again. “Mama?”
“Good to know you recognize me,” she said.
“Of course I...Mama? What the...”
“I've come to warn you, dear,” she said, slowly floating toward the bed.
“Am I dreaming?” he said. He shook his head. “Of course it's a dream.”
“Call it what you will. It won't matter,” she said. “Like I said I've come to issue you a warning.”
“A warning,” he said. “About what?”
“Your life. You're wasting it...what you have left of it, that is. One never knows how long we have on Earth, you know, so we must make the most of it while we can.”
He stared at his mother, a mixture of guilt, sadness and anger churning in his gut. “Mama, I'm so sorry I didn't...”
She waved a dismissive hand. “Stop that! It was not your fault. I may have died a tad too early, but if I did it from my own neglect. In truth, I may have wanted to die.”
“What are you saying?” he said, leaping from the bed.
“I mean subconsciously,” she said, placing a hand on his arm and tugging him to sit on the bed beside her. “After losing your father, I half died, you know. He was my everything. Sound familiar?”
She pursed her lips disapprovingly. “Hmm, I see you're being dumb.”
“Mama, I have no idea what this is about,” Victor said. “Why are you dressed like this? Dad died decades ago. The funeral is well over. You haven't been in mourning all this time...have you?”
Heidi gave him a piercing look which seared right through him. “Haven't I?”
He shook his head. “No, you couldn't be.”
“Well, I may as well have been for all the living I bagged out on. If it hadn't been for you and the boys I wouldn't have had any life at all, but I could have had so much more. I wish...I wish I had taken that first step and just... let go of one love and learned to fall in love again with another man.”
“Mama, why are you telling me this?” Victor asked. “Why now?”
“Because I see you falling in the same stream of life I floated on all those years and, Darling, you're drowning in it!”
“What are you talking about? I have not been widowed. Catherine didn't die. We simply divorced.”
Heidi rolled her eyes. “Like that matters. Listen, forget all that. I came to tell you that if you do not mend your ways, that you will end up as I have...alone, lonely...unloved and on my own.”
“Mend my ways...” he repeated, recalling too clearly where he previously heard those words. He started laughing. “Are you my Jacob Marley, Mama? Am I being Scrooged? What a crazy dream!”
Annoyed, Heidi whacked her boy upside the head until he stopped thinking this was so very funny.
“Hey!” he shouted. “What you do that for?”
“Because this is serious, Victor. Yes, that is exactly what I am—a restless spirit wandering the Earth. I obviously need to call in the big guns so you will listen. Victor, you will be visited by three...”
“Don't tell me....ghosts? Spirits?” he said, smirking as he rubbed the surprisingly painful spot on his temple where his strong but little mother had just smacked him.
“Not exactly. They are not dead, for one thing, so... they are not exactly spirits. Lets just call them friends with advice for you. You ought to listen to them since you merely laugh at me,” she said.
“Mama, I wasn't laughing at you, but are you serious? A friend from the past, one from the present and one from the future? This has been done to death and...”
She lifted a hand. “You want me to whack you again? Because I will do it if I have to!”
“No, no! It's okay,” he said, backing away a bit. “Bring them on then, quickly so I can get some sleep. I've got loads to do in the morning.”
Heidi narrowed her eyes. “You will take this seriously, Victor!”
“Yes, Ma'am,” he said, leaning back on his pillows, but he sprung up again. “Mama, before you go...can I get a hug?”
She smiled. “Thought you'd never ask,” she said, coming to the bed as she had done countless times when he was a little boy. She tucked the covers around him, kissed his cheek and held him close.
In that moment Victor felt more at peace than he had in months. He held on for longer than he intended, emotions welling inside him. “It was nice seeing you again, Mama., even if it was just a dream. Come back some time...only not with all this needless drama.”
“My love, I have never been gone. Who do you think has been whispering all that advice you've been ignoring all these years?” She waved and floated up through the ceiling.
Victor stared open mouthed. Then he shook his head and settled back against his pillows. “Last time I watch A Christmas Carol before going to bed,” he muttered, slipping swiftly back to sleep.
“Hey! Hey, you! Get up already, you fancy-pants Lawyer dude!”
Victor groaned and sent out a hand to slap the alarm clock into silence. He vaguely wondered why the morning radio crew thought they had to be so rude to get you to wake up. Only thing was the sound was NOT coming from the clock radio.
“Hey, I said get up. I don't have all day, you know!”
Victor's eyes popped open. He vaguely recognized the voice, but it just could NOT be. He slowly lifted his head and sure enough...
“Dearly John Yearly?” he said, sitting up. He gaped. “What the hell happened to you?”
“What's with this dearly crap?” said the apparition who was dressed—if you can call it that-- in strips of charred clothing which hung off his frame like dirty strips of rags.
“Sorry, that's what I used to call you when I teased Violet about your...shall we say...officious ways,” Victor said, staring at an odd tuft of greenery sticking out from under one arm. “What's that you got there?”
“What, this?” Dearly John Yearly asked, pulling it out and holding it up for him to see. “It's all that's left of the fricken pineapple Violet gave to me before it exploded and did this to me...never saw it coming. Not from Violet!”
“It probably wasn't her idea. It wouldn't be made of...mazipan by chance?” Victor said, barely stifling a laugh.
“Yeah, how'd you know?” Dearly John Yearly asked, flicking a bit of the sugary stuff off his shoulder.
“Oh, just a wild guess,” Victor said. “So... I suppose you're here to...enlighten me?”
“Don't know about no lightning. Was told I had to tell ya about Violet and me,” he said, sticking the prickly stump of leaves back under his arm.
Victor frowned. “My understanding is that there was no you and Violet.”
“That's the point, ain't it?” Dearly John Yearly said bitterly.
“You're the reason I don't have Violet!”
“Me?” Victor said incredulously. “You have got to be kidding?”
“Yeah, fancy-ass, big city lawyer all rich and and good looking and charming and everything. Hate your guts, dude.”
Victor continued frowning. “Then I don't get why you're here. What could you possibly tell me that would help me get Violet?”
“I never said I was,” Dearly John Yearly said.
“Isn't that the reason you're here?”
“Nope. Just told ya I hate you, so I'm sure not gonna help you get her!” said Dearly John Yearly.
“Why do you hate me exactly? I don't recall our even meeting.”
Dearly John Yearly was close to punching him. “You talk like a fairy, know that?”
“Pardon me, but that's not enough reason to hate a person.”
“I blame you for ruining my life!”
“Sure, didn't have anything to do with you ticking off your wife because of your lusting after Violet. Okay, if you're only here to keep me from sleeping you may as well leave,” Victor said. “Don't need a stalker in here.”
“I'm not a stalker!” Dearly John Yearly said.
“Beg to differ,” Victor said, propping himself comfortably on a stack of pillows. “Violet told me you constantly asked her out while you were in school, never listened to her when she clearly and earnestly said, “NO!” and you continued lusting for her even after she married Richard, who happened to be your friend and co-worker. Heard it was your obsession with Violet that eventually caused your divorce after which you started up with the constant badgering and asking out Violet all over again until she was ready to scream. You creep her out, John. You must have seen that. She told me as much. That kinda sounds like a stalker to me.”
“You think you're so high and mighty, don't you? Well, my divorce had nothing to do with Violet...almost nothing anyway. If Violet had gone out with me in high school I wouldn't have gotten my girlfriend pregnant and then I wouldn't have had to marry someone I didn't love and then she wouldn't have divorced me.”
“Love your logic there, John,” Victor said.
“How is it any different from what you did? Richie was alive and well when you fell head over heals for Violet. You were watching her every step all over town, drooling over her. Richie knew you wanted her. He was on to you, but he knew you had no shot in hell of getting her cuz she was all his. You were wishing him dead, weren't you?” Dearly John Yearly said.
“No, I didn't. I envied him greatly, of course, but I certainly didn't wish him dead, because I knew how devastating it would be for her.” Victor stared at him. “Her happiness was far and beyond the most important thing to me. I knew Richard made her happy. However, I'm guessing you wanted him dead. I noticed it wasn't you who rushed into the burning building to save a little girl and her dog.”
Dearly John Yearly glared at him, and looked for a moment as if he wanted to throw the pineapple tuft at him. “So, we're both the same then. Both obsessed with a girl we can't have. There's the lesson for ya.”
Dearly John Yearly then turned on the spot and....nothing happened. He wasn't a ghost, after all. Apparently figments of the imagination—which Victor assumed this was-- did not have super powers like walking through walls and ceilings and vanishing on the spot.
Dearly John Yearly looking even more ticked off about this slight inconvenience, gave Victor one last contemptuous glare and exited through the bedroom door. Before closing it behind him he said, “Better get your beauty rest, pretty boy. Someone else will be showing up when you least expect it.”
Victor watched him leave and shook his head. “I really don't need this crap.” He then fell back to sleep.
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