< >


***We apologize for any inconvenience our site change may cause for our readers.***

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Reluctant Valentine

By Judith Ashley

Jackson Montgomery strode into his office, slammed the door, and stalked to his desk. “She won’t get away with this,” he muttered throwing his jacket at the back of a chair. “Hell and damnation,” he cursed stomping over to grab the erstwhile garment now on the floor. “Why can’t she be normal like other women?”
          A bark of a laugh escaped. “If she was like other women, I wouldn’t be trying to win her over.” He wandered to the window. Looking out at the rain muting the cityscape, he sighed, “Ah, Lily. You drive me to distraction.”
          Lost in thought, he drifted back to his desk. He sank into the chair, his brow furrowed in thought. Templed fingers tapped his chin. He bolted upright. “I’ll make a list,” he said grabbing a sheet of paper and pen. 
Ideas for Lily for Valentine’s Day
1.     Flowers
2.     Jewelry
3.     Candy
4.     Dinner out
5.     Clothing
6.     Movie
7.     Card
      One-by-one he assessed the items. “Even sending a card is a challenge because she’ll toss it out unless it’s sent from ‘anonymous’,” he grumbled. “There has to be a way,” he groused, “to show her how I feel without scaring her off. But what?” he asked himself as a sense of failure loomed. “Brooding about this isn’t getting me closer to finding the answer,” he griped. “One thing is clear – whatever I decide to do, it has to be subtle, under her radar, sneaky.”

Valentine’s Day loomed a week away. Jackson’s brooding had not produced a viable idea. He’d hoped Valentine’s Day would be an opportunity to nudge their slowly growing friendship towards romance. When it dawned on him he might fail, it took all his self-control to resist the urge to lay his head on his desk in defeat.
Jackson whistled a jaunty tune as he drove into his garage. Upstairs the unsuspecting Lily would be finishing her daily physical therapy routine. While he would never wish her illness or injury, the reality of the injuries she sustained in the traffic accident served his purpose of winning her over. She’d been unable to refuse the offer of staying with his mother and him when the alternative was a rehabilitation facility.
          He opened the trunk retrieving a grocery bag and an unmarked sack. Making his way to the kitchen, he set them on the counter.
First things first: he flicked on a linen tablecloth and set the table with his best silver, crystal, and dishes. Next, he busied himself preparing a tossed salad and his famous (if he did say so himself) homemade dressing. When steaks were marinating in another one of his special recipes and a loaf of bread warmed in the oven, he crossed the room.
“Dinner’s almost ready, Lily,” he called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Mother?” he said through the open French doors leading into her apartment.
          “I’m coming,” was her reply.
          “I’m coming,” she said from the top of the stairs.
          He watched her descend, her steps slow and cautious. She was able to have the immobilizers off for short periods of time but her shoulders were still healing and a fall would be disastrous. Independent as she was, he knew better than to charge up the stairs and offer his help.
          Once the two women were seated, he brought salads and chatted with them while he cooked the steaks on the indoor grill. As he’d hoped, dinner was a convivial time with conversation sprinkled with compliments to the cook and laughter.
          “Dessert,” he announced, returning to the kitchen and retrieving a container of his homemade vanilla ice cream from the freezer,” is ‘make-your-own’ sundaes.”
While his mother and Lily created their masterpieces from the variety of toppings including cherries and whipped cream, he plucked the unmarked bag out from behind his mixer and tucked it behind his back. Sidling past the two women, he surreptitiously took two boxes from the bag and placed them in the middle of their place settings before joining them.
“What is this?” his mother asked holding up her box.
Studiously ignoring the question, Jackson built his own simple sundae of ice cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, whipped cream and topped with three cherries. Before resuming his seat, he put the most perishable items away. Out of the corner of his eye he watched his mother inspect the box as if by doing so she could discern what was inside. Lily, he noted, had moved the box aside and was disregarding it as best she could with his mother rattling on next to her.
“Jackson,” his mother said, “what is this? It has to be from you as Lily and I were together in the kitchen and these boxes weren’t here when we got up from the table.”
“I guess you’ll have to open it and find out,” he said looking down at his sundae a secret smile playing on his lips.
Lily opened her mouth to protest but closed it with a snap.
“Oh, my dear, this is lovely,” his mother said, holding up a silver tree of life pendant its five colored stones sparkling from different branches. “Lily, you must open your box and see what’s inside,” his mother coaxed.
Jackson stifled a smile as Lily, with obvious reluctance, picked up the box and opened it. Inside was another silver tree of life pendant with eight colored stones on different branches.
“I really can’t accept this, Jackson,” Lily started, shoving the box towards him.
He boldly interrupted. “I couldn’t get something for mother and leave you out. That wouldn’t be polite and I do try to be polite.”
He hopped up and circled behind his mother. “Here, let me put this on for you.” As he fastened the necklace, he added, “Mother’s has her birth stone and one for each of her children, and my father.”
Picking up Lily’s box, he opened it, and pulled out a similar pendant. Dangling the dazzling piece in front of her, he said, “You’re tree has your birth stone, one for your son, and each of your circle sisters.” He shifted to stand behind her. Purposefully he swept her hair from her neck, his fingers grazing against the nape as he carefully secured the necklace.
The slight shudder, a shiver actually, told him what he wanted to know. He was on the right path.
© 2012 Judith Ashley