Well, he wouldn't forget this year. As he almost always did (when his Blackberry worked properly), he selected a pre-made bouquet of flowers -- a dozen red roses with a backing of Baby's Breath. Then, he quickly scanned the nearby rack of cards looking for something romantic instead of a generic "Happy Anniversary!" card with some silly joke or lame saying. And, to his surprise, there it was; a simple and elegant vellum card displaying soft water color flowers with a vision ... Wow, he thought, “That sure looks a lot like my wife!" He marveled at the similarity as he mused, "She will get a kick out of this one.” Knowing that the picture was perfect, he almost forgot to peek at the inscription inside the card:
"To the most beautiful flower I have ever laid eyes upon."
He paid for the card and then zipped home in his Porsche, happy that he had beat her home from work. He placed the bouquet on the counter-top, propped the card next to it, and then went upstairs to shower and get ready to take her out for a nice romantic dinner at her favorite restaurant. Smiling to himself, he suddenly had the thought that he might actually get lucky tonight and was quite pleased, as he could not remember the last time the two of them made love.
She had been moody all day, irritably snapping at co-workers without provocation. She had been dreading this day since last year, when, to her total amazement, NOTHING had happened. If he forgot again this year, she had promised herself that it would be over and that she'd move on from this loveless sham of a relationship. She had not forgotten last year. She had gotten up early, before him, to make him coffee and his favorite breakfast. She wore his favorite perfume, had done her nails, put her hair up in the style he always commented upon, and was wearing a low cut top and shorter than average skirt that she had been sure would catch his eye. But did he notice? NO, not in the slightest! He had taken two bites of his breakfast, mumbled something about a new IPO to prepare and needing a lube job on his Porsche, and rushed off to work without even the usual kiss on the cheek.
He finished his shower and after changing into a fresh shirt, went downstairs to catch up on the sports scores on ESPN. When he heard her Honda pull into the driveway, he got up and went to the kitchen to greet her as she came in the side door. He picked up his card, ready to hand it to her, thinking that the personal gesture would help put her in the mood for some sex.
As she came in, she saw him standing beside a bouquet of roses, a white envelope in his hand. Well, at least he hadn't forgotten this year, though he certainly hadn't put more than his usual minimal effort into his traditional gift of cut flowers. She smiled softly, thinking back to another bouquet of flowers, as she took the card from his hand and kissed him chastely on the cheek. "Thank you, honey." Her hands opened the plain white envelope, and as she slide out the cream colored card, a sob caught in her throat as the room started going black.
He hadn't expected his card to have so much impact! His hands slid around her waist to support her as she swayed and burst into tears. She must really appreciate his gesture. Man, had he really scored!
Time had stopped for her and rewound to last spring. She could see him so clearly in her mind, his paintbrush in hand, a little easel and a bouquet of flowers on the table in front of him. She had been sitting on a low stool in front of him, wearing only his robe, suffused with the afterglow of their lovemaking. She had known from her first day at the firm that he was attracted to her. But he had been a total gentleman and never once made any inappropriate or lewd comment. After last year's anniversary debacle, she had decided to foster his interest in her, and it had not been long before the two of them were having the most amazing, steamy, affair that one could possibly imagine. He husband never had the slightest clue, being more interested in the New York Yankee's and the price of pork futures, than in her.
Her mind was frozen in time, stuck on the day that he offered to paint her. It was right after the two of them had made love. Afterwards, she cried on his shoulder, partly out of guilt for cheating and partly out of joy from the flood of sexual emotion that she hadn't felt in years in marriage. He had been an attentive and passionate lover, putting her needs before his own. He had told her incessantly how beautiful and incredibly desirable she was. But, she had needed to bite her tongue when he had commented on how lucky her husband must be to have her ... After they had showered together to wash away the sweat of their lovemaking, he had offered to paint her to show her how beautiful he saw her in his mind. She had agreed, and for the first time in years, she felt alive again as a woman. She felt beautiful, sexy, and, after longer than she could remember, she had felt like she was truly loved.
He kissed her goodbye at the end of that dreamlike day, telling her that would get together as soon as he returned from Los Angeles, where he had been sent to tidy up some loose ends on a greeting card contract negotiation. He called her every day, at work, while he was away and, together, they counted down the days until his return. Finally, on the day he was flying home, he texted her as he got on the plane:
"To the most beautiful rose I have ever seen. I look forward to seeing you soon. xo"
She saw the news report that afternoon. A plane had crashed shortly after taking off from LAX killing all passengers on board. She knew in the pit of her stomach that he was one of them. Somehow, she managed to bury away the grief. She had boxed it up, tied it shut with psychological string, and stashed it in some deep dark recess of her mind. Her husband had no idea that she was grieving the loss of her secret lover.
She clutched the card to her chest, her grief now released -- the memory of her affair first and foremost in her mind. She had barely noticed her husband wrap her coat around her and lead her out to the car. She had been oblivious of the drive to his favorite restaurant, her tears flowing freely for her lost love as they drove in silence.
He dropped her off at the front door and went to park out back. You never could trust valets in this town and he preferred to park his car himself. When he got into the restaurant, he couldn't find his wife anywhere. She was probably in the restroom, fixing her makeup, he guessed.
The card was crumpled and wet from her tears, clutched in her hand as she sat in the back of the taxi. She knew she looked a frightful mess, but it didn't matter. There would be plenty of time to clean herself up when she got there. For now, she was occupied with thoughts of what she'd say when she got to the crash site. How would she say good bye to her lover and start the new, fresh, chapter of her life that she knew he'd want her to begin.