Iâ€™d never seen a box of candy so big. Dressed in blue satin with an enormous lace ruffle, the box practically covered one side of my husbandâ€™s desk at his office.
I smiled, remembering the first time Jack gave me candy on Valentineâ€™s day. Heâ€™d handed me a small box in a paper sack. â€œThought youâ€™d know what to do with this.â€
Now, as I looked at the blue heart-shaped box, a warm feeling spread over me. Not a man to talk much or pay attention to special days, heâ€™d remembered Valentineâ€™s Day this time.
I slid my finger over the shiny white satin bow, wanting to tear it off and bite into a luscious chocolate morsel.
Jack had mentioned having dinner out. Maybe afterwards heâ€™d invent some reason to drive by his office and surprise me. I wouldnâ€™t spoil his thoughtfulness by unwrapping it now.
My reluctant fingers slid from the lace-ruffled box. I remembered heâ€™d asked me to pick up a check. His tall slim partner, Joe Burke, breezed into Jackâ€™s office. He pointed to the box. â€œIsnâ€™t that obscene? And to think it was won in a drawing,â€ he said as he retreated to the outer office.
Gripping the check, I left and drove past snow-dusted lawns. The moon glistened like a lemon frosted cream. Licking my lips, I wanted to bite into something rich and sweet.
Later, at the restaurant, the sizzling steak was juicy and tender. I could hardly wait until Jack gave me the candy. Iâ€™d give my strong silent guy a kiss and a big hug.
Jack excused himself to make a phone call and returned to the table. Soon afterward he escorted me out into the chilly evening. Hunching his big shoulders into his jacket, he seemed lost in thought.
As we neared his office, I found my mouth watering, but he drove right past without stopping. Had he forgotten the candy?
Later I mentioned we needed milk, hoping heâ€™d offer to go. He settled down in front of the TV and got caught up watching the Dallas Stars play the Detroit Red Wings.
â€œIâ€™m going to the store,â€ I said.
â€œSee you later–oh damn, the Red Wings scored again.â€
On the way to Krogers I wondered why he hadnâ€™t said a word about the candy. Then I remembered the phone call.
Heâ€™d been working late a lot. Could that candy be for another woman? I squeezed my eyes shut for a second. I didnâ€™t want to think about that. At least heâ€™d won it in a drawing–he hadnâ€™t gone out and bought it for someone else–or was his partner covering for him?
A hard knot grew inside me. Jack came home every night. He couldnâ€™t be having an affair, could he? Maybe I was living in a foolâ€™s paradise. I clenched my hands into fists. My heart beat in a staccato rhythm.
Would I be abandoned to pay the mortgage like my friend, Betty? I swallowed. Iâ€™d do it if I had to, but I didnâ€™t want to face the future alone.
Sure, I had a job, but that wouldnâ€™t bring in enough to live as we had before. I shut my eyes tight against the disappointment, then opened them quickly. I couldnâ€™t afford to have an accident now.
I wasnâ€™t looking forward to coping with the single scene after being married so many years. Iâ€™d forgotten how to flirt, and besides Iâ€™d feel silly doing it at my age.
Looking up at the bright lights above Kroger, I brushed the tell-tale wetness from my cheeks. I didnâ€™t want anyone asking questions.
After paying for the groceries, I managed to keep the tears at bay until the store doors swung shut behind me. Then tears came in earnest. A brisk wind chilled my wet face. Barely seeing the road, I drove with tears streaming down.
When I carried the groceries inside, Jack was still watching television. I hurried to the bathroom to wash my face. He hadnâ€™t seemed to notice my red cheeks. But I bet heâ€™d noticed the fifteen pounds Iâ€™d gained since giving birth to twins. No wonder he was attracted to someone prettier.
I went in the living room to say good night. Jack was engrossed in a western novel and gave me the briefest of good night kisses. Lying in bed, I blinked back tears. I didnâ€™t want to ask him about another woman. That might be just the chance he was waiting for–to say he wanted a divorce. If I asked about the candy, I might shame him into giving it to me instead, but I wouldnâ€™t enjoy it. At least some other woman wouldnâ€™t scarf it down.
Or I could just let it pass and say nothing. I tossed and turned, dampening the pillow with tears. No. That was the cowardâ€™s way out. My marriage was more important than chocolates or another woman. Iâ€™d fight to keep my marriage, but if I couldnâ€™t, Iâ€™d manage somehow.
Facing the frightening ordeal of divorce would be hard, damn hard, but it would be better than living a lie.
Jack entered the bedroom and undressed in the dark. I wondered how the other woman had touched him when they made love. My eyes burned. Bracing myself, I took a deep breath, then decided to wait until he finished showering. I tried to think what to say. Nothing I thought of seemed right. Too soon he came out of the bathroom. Even in pajamas, he looked handsome with those broad shoulders and dark hair. Why was I even thinking about his looks when heâ€™d treated me like this?
The bed dipped as he slid in beside me. He didnâ€™t even try to kiss me. Maybe he really didnâ€™t want to any more. He snuggled under the blankets with his back to me.
Heart pounding, I cleared my throat. â€œJack,â€ I began.
â€œThought you were asleep.â€ He sounded drowsy.
I gritted my teeth. How could he fall asleep so easily? Had he no conscience?
â€œJack, what are you going to do with that box of candy on your desk?â€
He switched on a light and turned to face me. â€œWhat box of candy?â€
He sounded surprised. Was he really–or just a good liar?
â€œThat huge box of candy on your desk at the office?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know anything about a box of candy at the office.â€
â€œJoe said you won it in a drawing.â€ Letâ€™s see how he explains that.
â€œI havenâ€™t heard about winning anything, but if I did, Iâ€™ll bring it home tomorrow.â€
I looked into his blue eyes. They seemed as true and calm as always. In spite of my suspicions, I believed him. Slowly I let out the breath Iâ€™d been holding.
Jack put his arms around me, pulled me close and kissed me. â€œLove you,â€ he murmured. My heart overflowed with relief. Mustnâ€™t let him know what Iâ€™d thought.
The next morning Jack called from the office. â€œHoney, you must have misunderstood Joe. I didnâ€™t win that box of candy. He did, and took it home to his wife. Donâ€™t know why he set it down on my desk. Maybe he stepped in there and the phone rang.â€
I didnâ€™t care how the box got on Jackâ€™s desk. I wouldnâ€™t miss the candy. I had the best valentine of all, a loving husband.
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