I Forgot Valentine’s Day
Friday, February 14
I knew it was coming. Groundhog Day is its precursor every year. Has been since 1840 and always will be. I should have planned something when Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. But I didn’t. And on February 14, I paid the price.
“I forgot about Valentine’s Day,” I confided to my best friend Alex. We were waiting at the Metro Center for the blue line train that would take us to Capitol Hill. He shook his head and raised his eyebrows.
“What’s wrong with you, Trip?” he demanded. “Didn’t you learn your lesson last year?”
“Apparently I didn’t, because I’m coming upon this revered day without dinner reservations, appropriate jewelry, or even a box of her favorite chocolates.”
“Man, I feel sorry for you. I don’t know what you’re gonna do. Face it, you’re screwed.”
He was right. Megan was understanding when Valentine’s Day slipped my mind two years ago. “There’s a lot going on,” she had said, referring to our recent townhome purchase in Silver Spring. Last year when I forgot, she ate the carry-out Thai food I brought home without saying a word, then called her mother. That’s how I knew she was perturbed. This time I needed a miracle or else there would be a longer phone call with her mom, serious silence, and sleeping on the couch.
This blunder would never happen to Alex. For as long as I’ve known him—since our freshman year at the University of Maryland—he’s been a hopeless, yet organized, romantic. He’s never forgotten an anniversary, birthday, or Valentine’s Day, and he always plans a perfect celebration. Last year he rented a horse-drawn carriage and took his wife, Janica, on a romantic excursion around DC. It concluded with dinner at Chez François in Georgetown. I’m sure he must have planned that evening several months in advance. Megan was aware of it too, since she and Janica talk frequently. What Megan and Janica may not realize is that Alex’s romantic expenditures cost a fortune. As a result, he has obliterated his retirement savings.
The blue train pulled up to the platform. Alex and I followed the last of the crowd to board before the doors shut. Once inside, we shuffled midway down the car and claimed our spots. We always stood in the aisle during the morning commute. As I grabbed a pole for support, I looked down at the seat next to me. An older woman, maybe in her mid-70s, was sitting there. She wore a long navy print dress with some kind of light blue and pink design. A heavy cloak with blue, white, and green stripes was draped over her shoulders. A pink knit hat with a pom-pom covered her hair, although a few wisps of gray and brown had escaped and framed her face. Perched on her lap was a large multicolor purse that appeared to be made from a rug.
She looked up at me and smiled. “Hi. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Thanks,” I replied awkwardly, then turned away.
“You forgot, didn’t you?”
Startled, I faced her. “Pardon me?”
“You forgot Valentine’s Day, and your special someone will not be happy with you.”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
“I can help.”
Her words surprised me. “You can? How?”
“My name’s Jeannie, and I will grant you three wishes.”
I couldn’t help but smile. The poor woman probably suffered from dementia. I wondered if she was a homeless person and was riding the commuter train to stay warm.
“Thank you, Jeannie, but I’ll be okay. I appreciate the sentiment, though.”
“You think I’m crazy and an indigent, right?”
Her comment left me dumbfounded, as if she had read my mind. I felt my cheeks grow hot as I struggled for a response.
“That’s all right,” she continued before I could reply. “I understand. People often assume that about me. But, as your mother always told you, Trip, looks can be deceiving.”
This time I could only stare at her, bewildered. How did she know my name? And yes, my mom said that, but isn’t that what every mom says to their kids? It’s like an unwritten rule.
She dug into her giant rug purse while I stood there trying to figure out what to say next. As my thoughts tumbled inside my head, the old woman pulled out a round silver pendant about an inch in diameter. A delicate triangular design was engraved around the outer edge of the circle, and a smooth blue gemstone was mounted in the center. It hung from a slim silver chain.
“This is for you, Trip,” she said. “It’s been handed down through our family for many generations. Now I’m giving it to you.” She took my hand and pressed it into my palm. An electrical current, like static electricity, shocked me as the silver disk brushed my skin. I recoiled. “It wields great power,” she added, “so use it wisely.”
“But… but Jeannie, I’m not acquainted with you. Perhaps you confused me with someone else. I don’t want to take your ancestral heirloom. I wouldn’t feel right.”
“I haven’t seen you in a long time, but you do know me. I’m your Grandmother Bessie’s sister. We’re family.” She smiled again and folded my fingers around the pendant. “This talisman will grant you three wishes. When you give it to someone in a gesture of love, the recipient also will be granted three wishes. As I mentioned before, it’s very powerful.”
Was my grandmother’s name Bessie? And did she have a sister? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to find out more. I started to ask Jeannie, but Alex prodded me with his elbow. “Man, what is going on with you?” he said. “This is where we get off. Pay attention.”
The train stopped. I turned back toward Jeannie to thank her, but she had disappeared. I pushed my way out the door and had barely stepped off the train before it slid shut behind me. As I stood on the platform, I realized the pendant was still in my hand. I shoved it into my coat pocket and walked to my office on 1st Street. I didn’t believe it had special powers or would grant me three wishes, but the necklace was pretty and the type of jewelry that appealed to Megan. So I decided to give it to her for Valentine’s Day. Problem solved.
My morning was hectic. I had several accounts with ongoing campaigns that required a considerable amount of time and “tender loving care,” and I was straining to keep them current. Just before lunch, my supervisor poked her head into my office. “Trip, I’m assigning the Newsome account to Bailey. She’s ready to handle her own client, and his campaign is straightforward.”
Damn. The idea of Bailey handling this account made me cringe. She was competent, but she always asked questions. Mainly she queried me, which put me behind in my work.
“Bailey’s good,” I replied, “but I wonder if she’s ready for her first client. I wish you’d reconsider.”
Both Samir and Umeko were more experienced than Bailey and either would be a good fit for Newsome. Before I could suggest assigning one of them to the account, my boss nodded and said, “You’re right, Trip. I should give Bailey a few more months of training. I’m assigning Newsome to you.”
I smiled as she strode out of my office and hoped it would mask my frustration. Since I was already struggling with my workload, I’d have been better off if Bailey had the account despite her incessant questions.
A few minutes later, Samir sauntered in. “I heard the boss lady assigned Newsome to you. I thought for sure she was giving it to Bailey.” He sighed and flopped into the chair in front of my desk. “I would have taken it in a heartbeat. I’m finishing up the Smith campaign and Newsome would be a piece of cake.”
“I wish she had assigned it to you, too. My plate is full.”
Almost as soon as I spoke, the supervisor appeared at my office door. “Oh good, you’re both here,” she said. “I decided to reassign the Newsome account to you, Samir. You’ve got a lot going on, Trip, and the Newsome campaign might be too much for you. When your current campaigns settle down a bit, I’ll send another one your way.”
After she left, Samir stood up to leave. “How about that?” he said as he headed out the door. “Your wish came true. Must be your lucky day.”
“Must be,” I called after him. Today was turning out to be a spectacular day for me. So far, I had dodged the Newsome account and my Valentine’s Day blunder. And then I remembered Jeannie from the train and the three wishes that came with the pendant. I reminded myself that there are no such things as genies or magical talismans, and my wishes-becoming-reality were a coincidence, not mystical experiences. And Jeannie—well, she’s a sweet old hippie who more than likely smoked too much weed. But, to cover all of my bases, I decided not to wish for anything else until I had time to ponder it.
The evening commute was light, and I arrived home at six o’clock. Megan was sitting in the living room, drinking wine. Guilt nagged at me for not remembering Valentine’s Day.
“Hi, sweetie,” she called. “Would you like some cabernet?”
“That sounds wonderful, Meg,” I replied, then added, “I wish we had a reservation for a nice romantic dinner tonight. I tried, but every place was booked. Forgive me?” Before I could stop myself, the little white lie tumbled out of my mouth. Along with it, I realized, I uttered my third wish.
Megan handed me a filled wine glass. “That’s okay, Trip. Valentine’s Day always slips your mind. So, this year I made the dinner reservation. Seven o’clock at Joseph & Co. Seafood. We have thirty minutes before we need to leave.”
“Honey, that’s awesome,” I stammered. My third wish was fulfilled, and I was astounded. However, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that Jeannie’s jewelry was responsible.
I told Megan I needed to freshen up before dinner and bounded up the stairs. I rummaged through her office/craft room and found a small box for the necklace, and tied it with a ribbon and bow.
I returned to the living room and presented the gift to her. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Meg. You are the love of my life and I’m grateful for every minute I get to share with you.” It was unlikely that the pendant possessed supernatural powers. But if it did, they would now be transferred to her.
She chuckled and nudged me in the ribs as she took the box and opened it. “It’s a very special necklace,” I said as she cradled the pendant in her palm. “I was told that it’s a powerful talisman that will grant you three wishes.”
Megan fastened the silver chain around her neck and smiled at me. “Three wishes, huh?”
“Oh yes,” I said grinning. “But wish carefully. You may get what you wish for.”
“I see. Well, in that case, Trip, I wish you were more like Alex… more romantic. You are a practical man, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. But I’d like to be swept off my feet now and again.”
Suddenly I experienced a jolt, as though lightning had struck me. She was right! I needed to rev up the romance. Megan deserved it and it would make me a better husband. Our tenth anniversary was coming up in June. Diamond earrings! I’d buy her a pair from Gorman’s. She loves wine, too. Better yet, earrings and a trip to Tuscany. Tomorrow I would call the travel agent.
As we made our way to the restaurant, I gave my sweet wife a well-deserved kiss. “Honey,” I said as I held her smooth, beautiful hand, “let’s plan a tour of Italy.”