Author’s Note: I am starting to think that I can’t draw this out too much longer. It might be time for a twist or something, and yet… I have an end in mind, so we’ll just have to see if I can make the two things work. I will wrap up part of this idea soon, and then I can add in a new thought or two and make it more exciting, I think.
“What could you have done before the war that was so terrible? Did you seduce someone and leave her pregnant and alone?” Violet asked, folding her hands in her lap. She did not see how Robbie could think his stories so terrible. “Did you kill anyone? Did you steal someone’s name and lie to everyone?”
He grimaced. “That is hardly a fair comparison. I don’t know that I was—I didn’t act with malicious intent, didn’t do things to hurt others, but that is not necessarily an excuse. I didn’t go ruining everyone I saw—though I did steal a kiss—I tricked a girl into letting me close enough for one, and then I did refuse to marry her after that. I didn’t like the way she kissed.”
Violet laughed, but then she had to grimace. “Was her name Alice?”
Robbie nodded. “Yes, it was. How did you know?”
“Another one of his stories. I asked him how he knew that he loved me, that he wanted to marry me, and he said because he’d tried this before, that he’d kissed Alice Andrews, and she didn’t mean a thing to him—that he didn’t like the way she tasted. He said I tasted better, that I was something more like… like the garden and freshness and flowers, and I remember telling him that flowers do not taste good—”
“Oh, Violet, did you go eating them when you were younger?” Robbie teased, a grin on his face as he leaned toward her.
She flushed, feeling very foolish. “They looked so pretty and smelled so nice I thought they’d taste wonderful as well. I found that I was wrong. They did not taste good at all. It was a rather humiliating experience, though Mother laughed for days and said she’d picked the right name for me.”
“I do think she did.”
“You are not going to call me a sprite now, are you?”
“No, of course not. I just think that a fine name shared with a lovely flower suits you. You are in some ways as delicate and beautiful as a flower, but then you are stronger than any plant could hope to be, even those that withstand the winter frosts. I would not say that it is right to think of you only as your namesake, but I do think it agrees with you in many ways.”
She lowered her head, flushing for a different reason. “I would think it best if you do not flatter me, Mr. Winston. This is… Our situation remains quite awkward, and I do not wish to confuse things.”
He shook his head. “Forgive me. It was not my intention to be confusing, nor insincere. I hope I did not offend you or make you uncomfortable. I do not want to cause you any more distress than I have already. It seems every time we discuss a part of my past, I learn it has been usurped, and you learn that another story he told you is a lie.”
Violet put her hands together. That was part of what concerned her—indeed, she did not think she would avoid a second sleepless night over the matter. All of Winston’s stories were Robbie’s, and what she’d loved about him was not true, not even the slightest bit. She felt sick again. She did not want to give in to that feeling, that despair. She needed to act with the strength that he kept saying that she had.
“I think that I should go.”
“Oh, and just when I’d come in to ask you if you’d like to stay to dinner,” her mother said, drawing both their eyes to the doorway where she stood, a slight grimace on her face. “Are you sure you won’t? Cook has prepared Violet’s current favorite, and while I know we did have it the last time you dined with us, you did seem to like it.”
“So I did,” he said with a smile. “I would not mind staying—if Violet does not object to that.”
She should—or part of her thought that she should—but she also didn’t. She would like him to stay. She didn’t know what was best. She knew her mother wanted him here. She had already said so. Aunt Beatrice would not be as welcoming—she had not been pleased with Robbie since he refused to marry Violet when her aunt more or less decreed it.
“No,” she said, thinking that she would likely regret this. “I do not object.”