Making It Special
Ever since the day they met they’d been competitive, but this year would be their best ever Valentine’s Day
Jenna couldn’t remember a time when she and Mike hadn’t vied to send each other the best Valentine’s gift ever. It had begun when they’d started dating, some ten years ago. Since than it had snowballed with each gift getting more lavish.
Their first year together he’d bought her a dozen red roses and taken her out to Flavios, one of the poshest restaurants in town. Quite how he’d afforded it she had no idea. Not on his salary. She’d reasoned that perhaps he earned more than she thought working in the travel industry. That’s how she’d met him, waiting for a train on the platform, and he’d advised her it was running late. Their eyes had met and chemistry took care of the rest.
She’d bought him a wooden phone docking station with their names woven within a heart, and a leather wallet.
They’d each professed their love for each other, even though they’d only been dating for about four months.
When Mike stared deep into her eyes her insides melted, and her legs turned to jelly. How could someone do that? But those oceanic blue eyes had, and she’d felt as though she’d never love another.
Each of them was very competitive, discovering that joy early on in their relationship. Mike had taken her to a boating lake where they’d hired some pedalos, racing each other to see who could get across the water to the other side first. She’d won and he’d pretended to sulk until she’d promised him an ice cream cone with a chocolate flake.
Even playing a simple board game like Monopoly could cause undue tension and playful exchanges. Both of them knew which properties they wanted to own, and whoever acquired them first, the other wasn’t happy.
As time went on, despite them arguing, their love was deep. It felt like they were different sides of the same coin, unable to live without the other. A bit melodramatic, but true.
When Mike had proposed, he’d taken her to Paris, and got down on one knee at the top of the Eiffel tower proffering a solitaire diamond ring and a look of utter devotion. When she’d said yes, a crowd of onlookers applauded. Someone had said something, which she presumed was complimentary considering the occasion. Unfortunately, she only remembered schoolgirl French, so just nodded and smiled.
However, as soon as they’d got home, she enrolled for evening classes to better her knowledge, should they ever go to Paris again.
They didn’t, although they did visit the South of France for one holiday and she at least felt better about being able to converse slightly with the waiters and hotel staff. Mike had looked impressed – and when they’d got home, he had booked himself a French tutor so that he could retake his French GCSE.
Again, she’d wondered at the cost, but since Mike was always generous with both his time and money, she just assumed he’d had a salary increase, or maybe cashed in an annuity. After all, they had a separate housekeeping account for bills. Their personal accounts were just that – personal.
They were both now in their early forties. She’d always regretted them not meeting until she’d been in her thirties, lamenting the fact that they’d not been able to spend longer together. Still, the thought of spending the rest of her life with Mike comforted her. He truly felt like her soul mate.
Although she couldn’t outdo Mike in the cost of her gifts necessarily, despite her now being an assistant manager in a top retail chain, she liked to think that she outdid him with imagination and flair in the type of gift she chose.
Knowing his love of cars, she’d once bought him a triple supercar driving experience at a top UK race track where he could drive three separate top of the range cars. On another occasion, she’d got him tickets to Wimbledon. They’d not been easy to get as it was a public ballot and she’d been biting her nails worrying about whether they’d be lucky or not. Thankfully they had and it had been one of the best days ever, watching their favourite tennis stars, and eating strawberries and cream washed down with champagne. Well, OK… it wasn’t champagne but it tasted very similar!
So, with Valentines Day approaching once again, Jenna wracked her brains as to what she could get him. But her world was turned upside down when Mike spoke to her one evening in late January.
“I thought we’d maybe just give each other cards for Valentine’s Day. What do you think? Only it seems silly spending so much money when we know we love each other.”
Jenna stared at him. “But… but we always get each other something.”
“I know, but what about a change this year?” Mike suggested, letting his fingers trail across her arm, sending shivers of delight through her body. He’d always managed to do that.
Yet when she looked deep into his eyes, she knew something was wrong. “What is it? Tell me.”
Mike shifted his gaze and uncrossed his legs, placing his hands on his knees.
He took a deep breath before looking at her again. “The thing is… well… the economy isn’t great, and everyone wants to cut costs. They’re talking of laying some people off, just for the short term., but…” He paused.
Jenna waited, knowing better than to interrupt his flow but could feel her heart beating twenty to the dozen.
Mike twisted his body and took one of her hands. She could see the honest expression on his face – he’d always had
“Trustyoutobeat meatthebest Valentine’sDaygift ever–youalways didliketowin!”
eyes that could tell the truth.
“They’re cutting my hours.
Hopefully if things pick up then they could revert back, but for now…” He shrugged.
Jenna felt a range of emotions surge through her body at his words. Shock.
Disbelief. Anger. Worry. But then common sense took over. She’d always been fairly pragmatic about things, and she squeezed his hands.
“OK, well, we’ll cope. We always have. I certainly don’t need lavish lifestyles, or posh lunches for you to show me how much you love me. You do that just by making me a cup of tea, or fetching my sunhat when you’re afraid
I might catch too much sun.”
Mike let out a gasp of relief. “Thanks for understanding. I’ll find another job that fits in around my schedule. Sorry for letting you down.”
Jenna shook her head aghast that he thought he had. “But you haven’t.
Please never think that. Do you remember there were odd times when we had to save up for things and watch our pennies? It all worked out, and this is no different.”
They sat there in silence momentarily, before Mike pulled her to him. “I bless the day I married you.”
“And I you. Now, we’ll put the kettle on and sort out our budget.”
The next few weeks Jenna went through their finances with a fine-tooth comb, Mike at her side. Things weren’t easy in the months ahead, with relations becoming strained, but their competitiveness proved an asset, as they enjoyed working out which company could offer them the best deal.
In the end the experience seemed to strengthen their marriage.
Weird in a way how a life changing event could either reinforce or break people. Maybe it showed an inner core strength that could only appear when someone felt under pressure? Whatever it was, Mike agreed with her that they both had it.
As Valentine’s Day approached, Jenna smiled, knowing she had the perfect solution to lift their spirits. She just hoped that the weather forecast would be good.
Unfortunately, on Valentine’s Day itself, it rained. No, it didn’t just rain, it absolutely poured. “I think the weather is commiserating with us,” said Mike as they both got ready for work. Jenna thanked her lucky stars that she still had her job. Not only that but she’d applied for and got the job of Manager after the present boss had decided to take early retirement. It had meant an increase in responsibility, but also her salary, and was a job that Jenna loved. That and her life with Mike had given her the greatest pleasure. They’d not been blessed with children, but Jenna had sponsored a child in Africa, and loved receiving little notes and photos from him.
“I might be home a bit late. Boss wants to talk to me.”
“No worries. See you when I see you,” Jenna said, kissing his cheek.
Arriving home Jenna checked to make sure Mike hadn’t beaten her to it. No, he hadn’t. Good.
Humming to herself she laid things out neatly. A rug on the floor. OK, it would have been fun to do it outside, but the weather put paid to that. Anyway, it would have been far too cold.
Plates, cups, glasses, bubbly in the fridge, and a vase with a red rose as the centrepiece. It wasn’t quite Flavios, but with some Italian flags placed around the room, and a CD of operatic music ready to play, it had an Italian flavour.
Whipping upstairs to change into something more befitting a romantic tete a tete, she added a dab of her favourite perfume, before putting on the oven to heat the pizza.
As an accompaniment she’d made a salad, and there were mini mozzarella balls, bruschetta, and cocktail sausages on sticks just because she knew how much Mike loved them.
Hearing his key in the door, she lit the candle, and pressed play for the music.
The expression on Mike’s face said it all – astonishment, followed by a beaming smile. “Wow!”
“You like?” Jenna batted her eyelashes at him, as she struck a provocative pose.
“Hey, you always knew the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach,” Mike quipped, grabbing a cocktail sausage and a handful of crisps, making Jenna laugh.
Kneeling down, he gazed into her eyes. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”
“Once or twice! I thought this might bring back memories of our first Valentine’s Day together, when you took me to Flavios.”
“This is better,” said Mike. “And it kind of trumps my own news.”
Jenna’s hand flew to her face. “I almost forgot. How did the meeting with your boss go? What did he want to talk to you about?”
“Well, he’s actually upping my hours again,” he said.
Jenna squealed her delight.
Mike grinned. “He told me how grateful he was for my loyal service to the company. It had only ever been planned as a short-term thing, and the travel industry is picking up again nicely. From the beginning of next month, I’m back to full time again.”
“Oh, that’s brilliant news!” Jenna said throwing her arms around him.
Hearing the oven beep and knowing that the pizza was ready she rose to her feet, throwing her last comment over her shoulder as she walked out of the room. “Trust you to beat me at the best Valentine’s Day gift ever! But then again, you always liked to win!” she added with a wink.
She returned with the food, and Mike looked up at her.
“No. You win hands down. Nothing beats pizza and a night in with my wife.”
“Right answer,” Jenna said, a big grin on her face. “Divertiti.” Which as he knew meant enjoy in Italian.
BY CARRIE HEWLETT