Author’s Note: Originally, this was all one scene. I ended up splitting it because it had just gotten so long and a bit out of control. I wanted the explanation and confrontation separate from this part. I think it’s better this way.
“Can’t… breathe…” Something had shattered, and Robert thought he’d felt something sting his cheek as it hit. He grunted, not certain what had drawn him back from the darkness, but he did not know that he wanted to know. He did not think it would last, either, not with him bearing the full weight of his half-brother.
“Because he broke your nose or because he’s stuck on top of you?”
“Um… possibly both,” Robert said, shifting so that he could get his stronger arm in a position to push the man’s body off of him. He turned over, trying to sit up. Violet. He’d heard Violet, and that was something worth staying awake for. He would try. He did not know that he would make it, but he would try.
“Did I kill him?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think I could hear him breathing. He’s not dead.”
“Oh, good,” Violet said, sitting down on one of the stones that made the path to the front of her house. Robert should regret walking through the garden, but he thought it might have saved him. “I was so afraid… I thought I’d killed him… Thought he was going to kill you… He was so angry. I’ve never seen him like that, and I don’t… That wasn’t the man I knew. It wasn’t.”
Robert nodded, yanking his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiping at his face, trying to rid himself of the blood. “I think he saw us yesterday, and that was…. too much. After all my father did to make him feel rejected and unworthy, to make him resent me, to resent your aunt, having it appear that you had picked me as well… I think it sent him into a rage. I couldn’t reason with him, though I tried.”
“I know.” She glanced toward the man—her husband, Robert should remember that—and sighed. “I… There is such injustice in his story. I understand him being angry, and I would have been, too, but he… He came here to hurt you, to hurt my aunt, and he only ever used me.”
“We don’t know that. He might have loved you despite his intention to hurt everyone. He might have cared, if only in a small measure. He sounded… jealous, at least.”
She looked down at her hands. “You didn’t steal me. I was never anyone’s to steal.”
“I know that.”
“I did love him until he left me, and a part of me still loved him after he left me. I didn’t want to because of what he’d done, but I did. Then I met you and learned what he’d done, all the stories he’d stolen, and I was confused…”
“Violet, it’s not—”
“Do you think he hurt the lawyer, too?”
“Did he not come? If not, then… Possibly.”
“It would take a long time to get the reverend here and without the lawyer…”
Robert grimaced. “I wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to find out what happened to the lawyer or get the reverend here, but why would he need to hurry?”
“I’d like the baby to have a father before it comes.”
He stared at her. “You… You’re… You’re going to have the baby now?”
“I think so. I hope so. Either that or I’m dying, so it had better be that the baby is coming,” she said, trying to force herself up, but she cried out and stilled. “Oh, very well. I shall stay here until it does. That is good enough for me.”
“I don’t think so. We have to get you inside and get some water boiled and if you’re going to have the reverend marry you to that one then—”
“Oh.” She lowered her head, and he thought she had to be in a lot of pain. He started toward her, hoping to help her before things progressed too far with the birth. He didn’t care how he felt. He’d live. The fact that he could move had already convinced him of that. He already felt better. He would make sure she got everything she needed before the baby came.
“Well…” She looked up at him, biting her lip. He thought she might even cry. “I had meant you, not him. That’s why I need the lawyer, too, so that I would know if it was even possible to do that now, but if you don’t want me or the child then—”
“I want you,” Robert told her, kneeling down next to her. He put a hand on her face. “Oh, Violet, I tried not to, just as you did, but I do think I have fallen in love with you, and I know that I can at least be a better father than mine ever was, even if I am not that good of a man.”
“You are a good one, better than I deserve after—”
“Don’t say that. I think he was wrong about many things, but he was right about one of them—he didn’t deserve you.” Robert wrapped her arms around his neck. “Hold tight. I don’t know if I can lift you or not, but I’m going to try.”
“Don’t argue, child. We already called the police, but your mother is summoning the doctor now. I suppose we’ll have to find someone to go for the reverend in the meantime,” Beatrice said, walking up to them. “Now let’s get you inside before that baby comes.”