It was time she joined the others for open weeping, lest they be offended and think she did not truly grieve for her husband. She paused and turned to her son. "But what about you, my son? When will you take a wife? You need someone."
Luke did not lack for the company of women. Unmarried girls had been slipping into his tepee for years, but he had not slept with one yet that he truly cared about.
He took her arm as they left the tepee. "Don't worry about me. When I meet someone just like you I'll marry her. Till then," he said with a wink, "I prefer my freedom."
Hearing Judd admit with his dying breath what she had always known but sought to conquer, Violet felt she no longer had any reason to live.
She spoke only once, to ask that Judd be buried in his favorite spot beneath the mimosa tree. After that, she remained silent, not even acknowledging those who came to pay their respects as she sat next to Judd's coffin in the big room of the cabin.
Jacie, seated beside her, accepted the condolences for both of them and worried about her mother.
Violet had not shed another tear since the night Judd died whispering Iris's name. Everyone thought she was in a deep state of grief, when actually she was wallowing in self-pity and rage. All the years of trying to make Judd love her, waiting on him hand and foot, treating him like a king, feeling guilty about deceiving him—her sacrifices had come to naught. He had never loved her. Only Iris.
Now her life was truly meaningless.
When Judd was buried and the last clod of red Georgia clay had been packed down with the back of a shovel, Violet went inside the cabin, to the bed she had shared with him. She lay down... and she did not get up.
A few days after the funeral, Dr. Foley went by to see Violet at Michael's request and reported afterward that there was nothing he could do for her. "She's wasting away. She refuses food and hasn't uttered a sound since the night Judd died. She's obviously made up her mind she wants to die too, and she will eventually get her wish."
When Michael drew Jacie from Violet's bedside to share Dr. Foley's dire prediction, she said drearily, "I know. I beg her to eat but she just lies there, staring out the window at Daddy's grave and acting like she doesn't hear a word I say."
"I should never have agreed to let him be buried there."
"I don't think it would have made any difference. She's going to grieve herself to death because she wants to, and there's nothing we can do."
Michael frowned to note Jacie's appearance. She had not left her mother's side, snatching a few hours of sleep each night in a chair next to the bed. There were deep circles under her eyes, and her face was pale, drawn. The ordeal was taking its toll and he voiced his concern. "Jacie, this has got to stop. I'm not going to let you make yourself sick. I'm going to move you and your mother to my house. The servants can look after her, and you can get some rest."
But she declined Michael's invitation. "I don't think that's a good idea," she told him. "I'll just do what I can for her and pray she comes out of this."
"I don't approve, and if she's not better soon, I'm going to move you both over there regardless. Meanwhile, I'll leave Sudie here. You can send her to get me whenever you need me."
Jacie was in no mood to argue.
"Something else," he said. It was twilight, and he had coaxed her to the front porch. "I know you've got other things on your mind right now, but I've been thinking that we shouldn't wait to get married. Everyone will understand how you need someone to take care of you and your mother, so as soon as she's better, we'll set a date."
"I don't think—"
He pressed a fingertip to her lips. "Jacie, we've waited long enough."
Jacie was suddenly feeling smothered. "I don't know. I can't think about it right now." As good as he was to her, as comforted as she felt when he was near, Jacie just wished he would leave her alone for the time