Love Note By A Different Name

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“Do you love me?” I whispered, not for the first time, laying my head on his shoulder and snuggling into his neck. The silence made me pull back just a little, and look up at him. I’d asked the question in a silly voice—a baby kind of voice—so that he would know I didn’t mean it. I didn’t really need him to tell me. I wasn’t that needy.

His eyes were focused somewhere far away, and then he gave a little jump. “Of course I do.” He kissed me on the top of the head, the way you might kiss a child. “You know that.”

“I do.” I tilted my face up at him, and he gave me a peck on the lips. So far removed from our first kiss. He stepped back, and I stumbled.

“So, what do you want to do today?” he asked brightly. I hesitated. “I don’t know.” I was thrown. I thought he would have planned something.

“Well, today is in your hands,” he announced, grandly. “It’s your day after all.”

“Our day,” I said.

“Yes, our day.” His smile faded briefly, and he squeezed the tops of my arms. “You know what I mean. I want it to be special for you. Whatever you feel like doing.”

“I want it to be special for both of us,” I said, trying for a smile. “Do you remember our first Valentine’s Day together?”

So many years ago now. It was a Saturday, and he had let me sleep in. I’d woken at 10, and stumbled downstairs to find that he had laid up the kitchen table with croissants, ham, pain au chocolat, and the cheese with the holes that I like. In the fridge were two glasses of Bucks Fizz, already poured. And he had been sat there at the table—I have no idea how long for—looking as if he had been expecting me that precise second. He could have been there for hours. He’d planned a beautiful day where we walked by the river, had a late picnic on the bank, and then dinner at a tiny Japanese restaurant near home. He hated Japanese food, but he knew that I loved it. It was an amazing day.

“Yes, I remember,” he smiled. “Never been able to look sushi in the eye since.”

I laughed, but it was a short laugh. “That was the best breakfast I ever had.” We both glanced at the kitchen table, where my cereal bowl was still sitting. I picked it up and put it in the dishwasher. Luke had already cleared his toast plate away. I’d been in the shower whilst he’d eaten this morning.

“So, you want to go for a picnic, is that it?” he said. He glanced out of the window. “It’s a bit overcast today. Could be chilly.”

“No, it doesn’t have to be a picnic.” I shrugged. “What do you fancy?”

“There are a few things I’d like to do,” he started. “Just some jobs I’ve been meaning to do in the garden. How about I get those done, and then we go for dinner later?”

“Sure,” I said.

“But no raw fish this time!” he laughed.

“No.”

“Well, I should get started.” He patted me on the shoulder. “How about you organise somewhere for dinner?” I nodded, and watched him leave.

When I was a child I was horrified at my parents’ lack of romance. My mum used to find it funny. “Things change when you’ve been married a while, Rach,” she would say. “You still love each other, but it’s different. You’re more comfortable with each other. You’re not trying to impress the other person all the time. You’re more secure. It’s a deeper love.”

“But I want love I can feel.” I would say.

“Oh, you can still feel it,” she’d answer. “You just have to look beyond the surface.”

I went to the window and watched Luke starting up the mower. He always did the outside work, as he knew I hated it. He caught my eye and waved. I waved back, and started to clear up the kitchen. My cup of tea was still warm. He made me a cup of tea every morning before we left for work. Sometimes we didn’t even see each other, as we were too busy flying in different directions trying to get out of the door, but my cup of tea was always there on the counter like a love note. I’m thinking of you. I love you. Have a good day.

I smiled and cradled the warm cup between my hands. Valentine’s Day gets better with time. You just have to look beyond the surface.