“If I can just see that scene, of the daughter all grown up, coming home to fulfill her promise, I know I’ll be able to finally write it. I’m sure of it. I’ll be happy to make it up to you in any way I can. I’ll pay twice your original fee. This story is everything to me. If I can just write it, it’ll be a new beginning for me. A turning point in life. Please.”
“But… I am most certainly not a… dress-up toy.”
“If that’s how you feel, I’ll promise you right here: No pictures.”
“You had intended to take pictures?!”
“OK! No pictures! I’ll burn the image into my brain and use it to write the story. Violet, please.”
For some moments afterward, Violet stood with a scrunched face and continued to mull the idea over, but in the end, she was beaten out by Oscar’s tenacity. One might have suspected she was of the type easily pressured into things.
Oscar, so excited by their new understanding, broke his long reclusion by heading out to town to purchase fine clothes and an umbrella for Violet.
He brought back a two-tone dress of white lace on top and blue on bottom, with a ribbon-belted waist. The umbrella was sky blue with white stripes, its canopy edged in frills. Violet seemed particularly pleased with the umbrella, and after he handed it to her she snapped it open and closed, open and closed, then twirled it around in her hands.
“Haven’t you ever had an umbrella before?”
“I have. But I had not known of ones as delightful as this.”
“Is that so? You’re always dressed in such charming outfits. I’d thought following fashion was a hobby of yours.”
“I merely dress according to the recommendations set forth by my superiors at the agency. I do not frequent dressmakers’ or other such shops myself.”
It was as if she were a child dressed up in clothing chosen by her mother. A new thought struck Oscar. Perhaps she’s really much younger than I’d guessed. And suddenly Violet seemed to Oscar a fraction less a woman and a tad more a child.
Now finished shopping, Oscar hurriedly motioned for Violet to change her clothes–before she could change her mind.
It was early afternoon. The sky was mildly overcast. Rain seemed unlikely, yet its perfume hung in the air. A chill wind danced about, heralding autumn, but not yet harsh enough to sting.
Oscar had already gone outside to wait. He sat down in a wooden chair he’d carried right up to the side of the lake and began smoking a pipe.
Since Violet's arrival, he’d refrained from smoking out of a vague sense of consideration. Now, after that long fast, the smoke seemed to permeate all the way down to his belly. Several minutes had passed of him blowing rings that hung lazily in the air when came the plaintive screech of the drooping, unoiled front door.
“I’m sorry to have kept you.”
He twisted his neck to meet her exquisite voice.
–trouble at all, my dear, he’d meant to say, but his breath had taken flight, leaving him alone with his words.
With those unspoken words still caught in his throat, Oscar stared in awe at Violet. It was like he was seeing her for the first time all over again. With her hair let down, she had enough charm to steal time away from any eyes placed upon her. Her braided hair flowed gently down across her frame in a gentle curve. It was much longer than he’d thought. But, more than that–
If she’d lived to this age, this is just how she’d look.
He thought of all those years he should have been able to spend watching his daughter dressing up, playing pretend, and a burning feeling welled up from his chest.
“Are you satisfied with the appearance of the clothing you selected for me?”
She clutched the hem of her skirt in one hand and spun in place. It was as if she had floated down into this world of autumn colors from another realm. Such was the beauty of this divine-faced young woman.
“If it pleases you, I will proceed to the lake so you may begin your observations… That is what you had in mind, correct? For the scene you would like to compose? Rather than simply have me walk around in this outfit, it would be preferable for you to see me on the surface of the water, if only for a few seconds. Sir, leave everything to me. My mobility is of the highest caliber. I can provide you with the scene you require, if only briefly.”
Oscar, busy with half a dozen tugging emotions, simply nodded and gave faint murmurs of consent during all this discourse. Violet paid his condition no mind, delivering her words with her usual cool, matter-of-fact tone.
The young woman before Oscar was someone quite different from his daughter. Though she had the same golden locks, there was no sweet sparkle in her eyes.
Violet’s umbrella was closed. She gripped it firmly in one hand and leveled it on her shoulder, then stood back and stared out across the water as if making careful calculations.
The glory of autumn had withered and fallen, its traces scattered about the surface of the lake. The wind came in short, erratic bursts, now blowing, now quiet. Violet wet one mechanical finger with the tip of her tongue and held it up to test the wind’s direction. Oscar watched her fretfully.
Suddenly, Violet tensed. Her feet dug firmly into the ground with a crunch, and she turned to face Oscar bearing the slightest trace of a smile.
“Worry not. I’ll see to it that everything goes precisely as you have hoped.”