Keith came home from work early yesterday.
I stood out on the front step, out of the rain, waiting for him. We'd had a huge, exhausting argument the night before, the kind of argument that only happens once every six months or so and shakes everything up.
It's as if, as a couple, we feel the need to air out all the unspoken fears, the worst case scenarios. We've been under an incredible amount of pressure lately, and for a long time. I guess it's like cleaning house.
He gave me a cautious look as he came toward me, as though to gage the emotional weather conditions, but I simply stood aside for him to come inside. The girls flung themselves at him, butts wiggling, ears back, dancing around his boots.
The whole house smelled of the pot roast I had bubbling away in the slow cooker, browned on all sides in butter, salt and pepper and cooking slowly in French onion soup, sage and marjoram, carrots and onions.
He dropped all his gear on the dining room table and sat down heavily to take his boots off. We made every day conversation only slightly awkwardly, still feeling our way back along to our usual way of being.
Sensing that all would be well, I returned to my computer and my writing, which had picked in the late afternoon, as it always does, just in time to be cut off. In the morning, when there is no danger of being interrupted, it eludes me.
Keith wandered over, wearing his tan tee shirt and boxer shorts, munching on something.
"I guess it's the thirteenth, huh?" he remarked in a friendly tone of voice.
"Um... I suppose so..." Light dawned. "Oh no! That's tomorrow."
Keith clapped a hand to his face and groaned. "Now I'll have to put my clothes back on and go out again," he declared, in great frustration.
"No, no, don't bother," I assured him, genuinely. "It doesn't matter..."
But he was already heading out to the truck, dressed, oddly, still in his rather abbreviated and casual ensemble. I watched curiously from the window by my desk as he emerged from the truck with a gleeful expression and two large plastic bags.
He burst in the door and lifted the bags up with a great rustle of plastic, grinning ear from ear. "And you thought I forgot Valentine's Day!"
"Did you get all that?" I asked, stunned.
"It's Kitten loot," he declared, striding through the kitchen.
"Should we wait until tomorrow?"
"No. But you can't look yet."
He called me in as soon as he had arranged everything, a red wrapped package and two heart shaped boxes, a card and a teddy bear that we promptly named Fred, just because.
He also got these kind of ready-to-plant flowers seeds and bulbs that come already in their own soil. All a person need do is tip them into a flower bed and water, and have a reasonable expectation of success, even if that person is me. They smelled delicious, like good, clean earth and spring.
Keith pulled me roughly into his arms and smiled down at me, the glint of victory in his blue eyes.
"You're my valentine," he stated with the certainty of the husband.
"Always," I affirmed shyly, winding my arms around his neck, all my cool reserve gone, dissolved not so much by the loot itself as by the golden heart that had procured it.
Then his expression turned serious. "I know we've been going through some rough shit lately, but we'll make it," he said. "You'll see. We just have to hang in there a little while longer. It'll all work out, okay?"
We had chocolate and roast beef for dinner.