by Olivia Tejeda
Sunday mornings were special for Penny. It was the one day a week Julian didn’t rush off to work and they could spend time together. This Sunday was especially exciting. It was Valentine’s Day and she had plans.
Shortly after waking up, she took a deep breath and cuddled against Julian’s back, feeling his familiar warmth. He stirred slightly and she seized the opportunity.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Dreamboat,” she whispered into his ear.
“Oh, that’s right,” he mumbled. It’s Valentine’s Day, isn’t it.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t remember, Penny said, niggling him with her finger. He rolled his eyes, but was grateful for her trust. The truth was he hadn’t really remembered, not for her.
“I have a conn-fehh-shuuun,” Penny said, drawing out her sing-song statement.
She has a confession? Julian thought.
“Do you?” he said, forcing a smile and turning to face her in bed.
“Well, I didn’t want to spoil your surprise, but …” she said, stretching the short word into three syllables. “I stopped at the post office yesterday? To pick up the mail for you?” Her nervous habit of turning statements into questions infuriated Julian but his impatience was tempered by what she just told him. His smile froze as heat started prickling up his chest and neck, and his mind started running through the possibilities.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Sweet Dumpling?” He feigned patience. “You know I like to go to the post office. I drove all the way over there yesterday, and didn’t even need to.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Daddykins” Penny said, deflated. “I was on that side of town, and I thought I’d do you a favor. But then I saw something I shouldn’t have, and I … I just didn’t know what to do.”
Julian’s heart stuttered. Why would she pick up the mail? He didn’t even remember giving her a key to the box. He kept calm and turned his smile into the glare that kept Penny in line. Penny stayed silent.
“Well, Gum Drop,” he said in that clenched-jaw way he had that allowed him to be menacing, but didn’t allow her to protest. The few times she did, he told her she was being overly-sensitive and ridiculous, just like her mother. “Are you going to tell me what you saw or are we going to play guessing games?”
“Oh, Cuddlebug,” Penny sighed. “I’ve upset you.” She looked at Julian with puppy eyes. “I guess I have to tell you now.”
She took a deep breath. “There was a little envelope from Pamela’s Floral Cottage in the mail. I thought it was just an old ad, so I opened it,” she glanced up at him, his handsome face was not so menacing now. Penny blinked a few times, looked down, and continued.
“I’m sure you know what I found and … and … Well, I just think you are the sweetest husband in the whole wide world to spend that kind of money on roses for my Valentine’s Day gift!” She threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight.
“Well,” Julian breathed, relieved at having the moment to figure something out. “You’re the sweetest wife in the whole wide world, and you deserve them.”
“But listen, Sugar Cube,” he continued quietly. “Since you spoiled my big surprise. I think I should have a chance to get you something else.”
“Oh you don’t have to do that. I’d love to get those flowers. I’m sure they’ll be beautiful considering what you paid for them. And the invoice said two dozen red roses for delivery on February 14, so they’ll probably be here any minute!”
“But Angel Face, it is Valentine’s Day and you should have some kind of special surprise, so …”
Penny interrupted. “Well, my Prince Charming, when I was at Schneider’s Jewelers yesterday with my mom, I saw the most beautiful necklace I’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to get it without asking you first, so we put it on lay-away and …” She looked at him again, batted her big browns and looked away.
“Don’t say another word,” Julian said, happy to be reminded that his wife was so naive.
The next day when Penny and her mother met at the mall, her mother saw the necklace right away.
“He went for it again,” her mother said.
“He sure did,” Penny smiled as she twisted the necklace around her finger. “He got me roses, too.” she said.
“That’s my girl.”
Penny leaned over and gave her mother a squeeze. “You’re the sweetest Mom in the whole wide world,” she said.
“Come on,” her mother smiled. “I’ll buy you lunch.”