Bard Valentine Invitational 2011
Dedicated to couples
who find themselves apart
on Valentine's Day.
Patty stared up at the ceiling. The bedroom was still blanketed in darkness with only the faintest hint of the rising sun peeking around the edges of the window curtains. She was lying on her back, her hands tucked behind her head.
The alarm went off; it's shrill musical tone shattering the silence.
“Damn it,” Patty muttered pulling an arm free. “I meant to turn you off last night.” She reached over to the night stand and, with the push of a button, returned the room to silence. She rolled onto her side stretching an arm across the mattress. She knew she would find the sheets cool where normally her lover slept but she still felt sadness at her absence.
“I suppose I should get up,” Patty said, her words sounding loud in the early morning quiet. “It's not like I've done any sleeping,” she added kicking the tangled sheet and blankets away from her body. She sat on the edge of the mattress for several minutes before standing then padding toward the bathroom.
Patty poured coffee into her favorite cup then added a touch of flavored cream to it. She carried the cup to the breakfast nook and slipped onto the cushioned bench under the window that overlooked the backyard. Stretching her legs along the length of the bench, she leaned back to sip her coffee and gaze out the window— not really caring about the view.
The kitchen phone rang. She considered not answering it then reached above her head and lifted the headset from its cradle. “Good morning,” she said, halfheartedly.
“I thought you'd be bursting with joy today,” the caller responded.
“Oh… Hi Susan.”
“Then why the gloomy attitude?”
“Gloria had to fly to Denver. I took her to the airport yesterday.”
“What?! I thought you gals had plans for today. Didn't you both take the day off?”
“We did. But her boss called on Saturday. A deal was going sour and he needed her to talk to the client and save it. He had already set up a meeting for today and told her she had to be there.”
“On Valentine's Day? Is the guy an idiot?”
“No. Just a man.”
Susan sighed heavily. “Yeah. They just don't get it, do they?”
“Well, I don't know about all of them but he sure doesn't.”
“When will she be home?”
“Not sure. It depends on how much she has to do to smooth things over. Her boss told her not to come back until she has a signed contract. And not to come back at all if she can't get one signed.”
“What a jerk! Why doesn't she just tell him where to shove that job?”
“The money is good.”
“More to life than money. And that guy takes advantage of her.”
“I know, but we do have bills to pay. And she likes what she does.”
“I still think she should quit.”
“No argument from me.” Patty paused to drink some coffee. “So, change of subject… Why the early morning call?”
“Oh… I was going to verify your dinner plans. Lyn wants to go out for a nice romantic dinner tonight. I want to make sure we go to a different restaurant then you because I don't want to spend the evening listening to her and Gloria talk football.”
Patty laughed. “We had reservations at the Overlook.”
“It's our favorite place.”
“Have you cancelled them yet?”
“No. I was going to call this morning.”
“Mind if we use them?”
“No, I guess someone should enjoy them. You are as good as anybody.”
“Gee, thanks,” Susan grumbled. “I think a lot of you, too.”
“Sorry, that came out wrong.”
Susan laughed. “I know,” she said cheerfully. “Hey, Lyn has to work this morning… want to go find some trouble?”
Patty thought for a moment. “No. I think I'll just mope around here today and feel sorry for myself.”
“Not a good way to spend Valentine's Day. I can come over and keep you company.”
“I think I'd rather be alone.”
“Okay. But if you change your mind, give me a buzz. I don't expect Lyn home before this afternoon… so plenty of time for me to cheer you up.”
“Thanks, but I'll be fine.”
“Well, don't sit there and dwell on the fact that Gloria isn't there.”
“Yes, you will.”
Patty smiled. “Yes, I will. But I've got some projects I can do that will keep me busy while I do. You have a good dinner. And give my love to Lyn.”
“Will do. I'll check in later.”
Patty reached up and replaced the receiver on its cradle. She looked around the kitchen then through it to the living room. “Now,” she wondered aloud, “what projects can I come up with to keep me busy?” After several minutes of thinking but coming up with no answer, she stood and walked to the coffee pot. She refilled her cup then carried it into the living room and sat on the couch. Picking the remote control off the coffee table, she switched on the television then started cycling through the channels hoping something would draw her attention.
After an hour of futile channel surfing, Patty switched off the television and flipped the remote onto the cushion next to her. She thought for a moment. “No cleaning to do,” she said frowning. “Damn it, being married to a neat freak doesn't help in times like this.” She pushed herself up off the couch.
Patty walked through the house looking for anything out of place or needing some tidying up. Disappointed at finding none, she headed for the bedroom.
The previous night of twisting and turning but not sleeping was starting to catch up with her. “A nice long nap,” she said as she pulled back the bed covers, “is what I need.” She unzipped her jeans and stepped out of them glancing at the clock on the night stand—not even noon yet.
She pulled Gloria's pillow over, curling her body around it. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to sleep.
Patty was startled awake by the ringing of the phone. Disorientated, she rolled over, reaching for the night stand and fumbling for the offensive instrument. “Hello?”
“Oh, damn. Did I wake you?”
“Who is this?”
“Geez, you must have been asleep. It's Sue.”
“Oh,” Patty groaned as she flopped onto her back.
“Go back to sleep.”
“It's okay,” Patty stammered. “I'm awake now… sort of.”
“I'm really sorry.”
“No problem. What's up?”
“Well…” Susan hesitated, hearing the fatigue in her friend's voice. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”
“Susan, I'm awake now.”
“Damn, I don't know what I was thinking,” Susan started, more chastising herself than responding to Patty. “I knew you probably didn't sleep much last night but I just thought you'd be sitting there moping so here I was going to save you from a day of self pity—”
Patty grinned at her friend's self-admonishment. “Susan!”
“Oh… Thanks,” Susan said with a sigh. “I really am sorry.”
Patty laughed, feeling much more awake than moments before. “I know. So? What did you call for?”
“Well, like I said, I figured you were just sitting there moping… And I missed lunch cuz I was fixing up a little surprise for Lyn… And I've been craving an ice cream cone so I was thinking about taking this bag of stale bread we have been storing in the fridge and walking over to the park to see what the ducks were up to.”
“Little cold out for ice cream, don't you think?”
“It's never too cold for ice cream,” Susan said indignantly. “Besides, I thought it would be a great way to coax you out of your day of self-pity.”
“You did, did you?”
Patty looked at the clock. One-thirty. She sighed. “I guess a walk in the park won't hurt me.”
“Great. I'll be at your door in fifteen minutes.”
“Wait… I thought you said Lyn was leaving work early this afternoon.”
“She is. But she won't be home until three so we have plenty of time.”
“Aren't you afraid ice cream will ruin your appetite for this evening?”
“Not a chance. Now, quit stalling and hang up. I'm on my way.”
Patty started to speak but stopped when she heard the click indicating Susan had hung up. She rolled out of bed, hanging the phone up as she did. Grabbing her jeans off the end of the bed, she walked toward the bathroom. Knowing her friend, who lived only a few blocks away, would be knocking on the front door in no time.
“You could come with us tonight,” Susan suggested.
“Are you nuts?” Patty asked, astonished by the suggestion. They had spent the last hour feeding ducks in the park and were walking along the sidewalk toward her house. “Being the third wheel on a Valentine's Day date isn't my idea of fun,” she said as she turned up her driveway.
“I'm worried about you. And so is Lyn.” Patty glanced at her friend quizzically. “Okay, so Lyn doesn't know you're moping around like a lost lamb… But, if she did, she'd be worried, too.”
“Oh, please.” Patty pulled her house key out of her pocket. “I'm fine,” she assured Susan as she inserted the key into the door lock.
“Well, I still think it sucks that Gloria isn't here,” Susan grumped following Patty inside.
“Me too? You want some coffee?”
“No. I have to get home—have to get all prettied up for my lady,” Susan said with a grin.
Patty smirked. “Yeah, that will take some time.”
“Hey! Not funny!”
“You did kind of set yourself up for that.” Patty laughed when Susan glared back at her. “Go home. Do what you need to do for tonight,” she said.
“It's okay. I've got some time.”
“Susan, you walked me home. I'm here, safe and sound. You can go home now. I'll be fine.”
“I hate leaving you alone like this.”
Patty stepped close to her friend and wrapped her arms around her. “You're a great friend,” she said hugging Susan. “The park was a good idea,” she added when she felt Susan return the hug. “Now, please, go home.” The women released their holds but remained facing each other. “I'll be fine… I promise.”
“I'll call later.”
Patty nodded knowing it would be useless to argue. She walked Susan to the door and watched until she disappeared around the corner at the end of the street. Then she shut the door and turned around, slumping against the door as she surveyed the empty room. “Best laid plans,” she muttered remembering how she and Gloria had intended to spend the day. “You know, sweetheart,” she said pushing away from the door, “there are times I do wish you'd tell your boss where to shove it.”
Patty turned the page of the paperback then, realizing she couldn't remember anything she had just read, she immediately flipped it back. She started reading the page again but her eyes glazed over and she gave up. Tossing the book onto the coffee table, she stood and walked into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator then closed it when none of the food items inside interested her. “You should eat,” she told herself as she walked into the breakfast nook to peer out the windows. The day was beginning to fade to night. “Finally,” she said triumphantly. “Maybe now she'll have some time to call.” She smiled at the thought of hearing her wife's voice.
The doorbell rang.
“Who the heck…?” Patty grumbled at the unexpected sound. She turned away from the window and her pleasant musings. “I swear, Susan, if that's you…” she muttered walking toward the front door. She unlocked the door and yanked it open.
“Special delivery for Mrs. Patty Goodwin.”
Open mouthed, Patty gawked at the sight in front of her. “Oh, my,” she gasped.
The deliveryman was completely hidden behind a barrage of red roses, so numerous Patty couldn't even imagine their numbers. Floating above the roses was a cluster of heart-shaped balloons bearing a variety of Valentine endearments. The hand clutching the balloon strings also held the biggest box of chocolates that Patty had ever seen.
“Do I have to sign something?” Patty asked when her mind stopped spinning.
“For all this, I'd expect nothing less than a kiss.”
“What?” Patty asked, shocked by the comment. Then she paused, a look of bewilderment spreading across her face. It took a moment for her befuddled mind to recognize the unexpected voice. “Gloria?”
The balloons were raised to expose her wife's grinning face. “It better be. I'd be pretty upset if you started kissing deliverymen.”
Patty started to cry.
Patty and Gloria stood in the kitchen. The huge bouquet of roses lay on the kitchen table and the numerous helium-filled balloons had been set free to float on the living room ceiling.
Patty lifted the lid off the box of chocolates while Gloria searched for a vase to hold the roses. “I'm telling you,” she said as she surveyed the mouth-watering choices, “we don't have anything big enough… unless you count the bathtub.”
“We may have to use it,” Gloria said, her voice echoing out from the pantry.
“These are good,” Patty announced after enjoying a piece of chocolate.
Gloria emerged from the pantry empty-handed. “Glad you like them.”
Patty held the box out. “Here, try one.”
“I suppose we could just fill the sink with water and put them in it for now,” Gloria said helping herself to a chocolate.
“Works for me.”
Gloria chewed the caramel filled nougat then swallowed. “They are good, aren't they?”
Patty smiled and nodded. “So, not that I'm complaining or anything, but why… I mean how…?”
Gloria placed the stopper in the kitchen basin and turned on the water. “I decided that I was not about to spend Valentine's Day in Denver listening to a whinny executive make up ridiculous complaints about our contract,” she said as she moved to retrieve the roses. “So, after listening to him blabber on for about an hour, I told him he had two choices—either he could give me a legitimate reason he wasn't going to sign the contract or he could find someone else to manufacture the widgets that make his whatchamacallits work. And, I told him, I seriously doubted he could find anyone else.” She stood the roses in the sink, not surprised when they filled the basin. “But either way, I was catching the two o'clock flight home.” Satisfied the flowers would be safe for a few hours, she turned around to face Patty.
“What did he do?”
“He sputtered and blustered for a while. Then he threatened to call Mr. Donnway. I told him to go ahead and do it.”
“I don't know. He told me to get out of his office, so I left. His secretary caught up to me just as I was getting into my cab.” Gloria grinned. “She handed me a signed contract.”
Patty smiled then closed the distance to her wife. “That's my girl,” she said as she wrapped her arms around her wife's neck.
“Happy Valentine's Day,” Gloria said when their lips parted several minutes later. “I know it's not how we planned it—”
“It's a great Valentine's Day,” Patty exclaimed. “My girl brought me beautiful roses and lots of balloons… and chocolate.” She grinned. “But, best of all, it's not over yet. And I'm sure there's something I can do to make your day as special as you've made mine,” Patty said innocently.
“I believe we had dinner plans.”
“Oops. I gave the reservations to Susan and Lyn.”
Gloria nodded. “Good.”
“Okay, no dinner. So how would you like to spend the evening?”
“What I would really like…” Gloria smiled when Patty peered at her expectedly. “Is a nice long, hot bath and a night of making love with the woman who owns my heart. Interested?”
“Sounds nice,” Patty purred.
“Then shall we get to it?”
“Yes. Um, that is, right after we turned off the phone and stuff the doorbell with old socks.”
Patty laughed. “Long story. And we should put a sign on the front door that you're home. I'll tell you all about it later,” she added seeing Gloria's puzzled look. “Come on, I hear a hot bath calling.”
Gloria didn't protest when Patty took her hand and led her out of the kitchen.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY