It was going to be late, the Valentine was. But he didn't think that she'd mind. He'd found it at the supermarket, where they were taking down displays from the recent holiday, and realized that it was perfect.
After going through the checkout line, he drove home to put away the groceries and while he was there he put her name on the envelope and signed the card. Then he got back into his car and drove across town.
It was snowing and cold and, when he got there, the place looked deserted. He'd only been there once before, so he decided to stop at the office to hopefully avoid getting lost.
The woman in the office was friendly and smiled tolerantly when she saw the card in his hand.
"I know," he said, "it's late."
"Oh, I don't think she'll mind," the woman replied.
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking," he said, and feeling a bit more confident, walked back outside to his car.
He'd been pretty sure that she'd like the Valentine, late or not. But it was still good to know that someone else agreed with him.
Either way, the card itself was perfect. It came with a red envelope on which he'd printed her name in block letters. She'd know at a glance that it was from him because that's how he'd always made them out for her.
The difference was that, most times, it'd been really difficult to find the right card. He'd often felt that they either said too much or said it in a way that just wouldn't sound right coming from him.
But this card, found among the leftovers from two days before, was perfect. It was the first one he'd pulled, from the nearly-empty display, and it was perfect.
On the front of the card were the words, "I love you..." And below that was a vertical column of three red flowers, each with a smiling yellow face at the center and each of them peeking, through a round cutout, from inside the card.
When the card was opened, the smiling faces were revealed to be shining little suns, with a single word above each of them and "Happy Valentine's Day" at the very bottom.
Now, as he stopped the car and prepared to get out, he opened the envelope for one last look, a final though unnecessary affirmation that it was just right.
"I love you..." the front of it said. Then, on the inside, above the smiling suns, the words, "today," "tomorrow," and "always." And, at the very bottom, "Happy Valentine's Day."
Walking from his car, in the lightly falling snow, he placed the card on the mound of dark and still-unsettled earth.
Then, as he drove back up the narrow track, he noticed the woman watching from the office window.
And as he drove past her, through the iron and granite gates, he waved...
2.16.2017For Helen. For always...