THE PERFECT VALENTINE
Michael stared into the window of the jewellery store and sighed. Nothing in the window looked right. There was nothing there that said “I love you” in the way that he wanted it to. He hung his head and passed on by. He entered the shop next door and welcomed the cool air from the air conditioning. He made his way to the side of the store where he knew the greeting cards were situated. He brushed back the piece of black hair that was sweated to his forehead. He eyed the cards that he had so often despised. There had never quiet been the right one for his partner who wasn’t into glitter and hearts and puppy dogs. Lately there had been an increase of the less pathetically soppy cards. Valentine’s Day had often been a day that he tried to ignore, but this year was different. There was something special about this year and his partner didn’t even know it.
Michael picked up and read many cards that he immediately put back. The range was enormous Happy Valentines to my wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, partner, special friend, lover and the one I love. His hand hovered over the cards that said for mother and for daughter.
“What sickos,” he laughed to himself. Then he saw the perfect card. “To my fiancé,” it read. The picture wasn’t ridiculously effeminate and the verse inside for once did not make him want to vomit. He picked up the matching envelope and headed towards the checkout where he waited impatiently behind fifteen other people who had waited until Valentine’s Day to purchase their cards and gifts. He exited the store and groaned as he was hit by a blast of hot air. He took a deep breath and headed towards the inevitable. If he was going to do this today he had to have the piece of jewellery that made it official. He stared in the window at all the fancy looking jewellery that made him want to vomit and the price tags that made him equally as sick. He took a deep breath hoping to draw in some courage with the oxygen and took a step back inside. The icy blast from the air conditioning made him shiver.
“Can I help you,” asked an attractive sales assistant who looked as though she hadn’t even finished high school yet.
“I need something that says will you marry me,” he replied.
“I know the perfect ring,” she squealed dragging him over to a row of rings that had rocks that looked like they could sink the Titanic.
“I was thinking something a little less…” he started.
“Oh I see on a budget are we?” winced the sales assistant. Michael kept his cool.
“No,” he breathed. “I was thinking something a little less girly. My partner is anti-diamonds.”
“Oh but ours are sourced naturally and aren’t blood diamonds,” she tried persuasively.
“I would prefer a simple band. It’s not the sourcing of diamonds it’s the way they sparkle that Chris hates,” Michael explained. The young woman showed him an array of bands before he finally settled on the one that would look great on Chris’s hand. He requested a blue box knowing how much Chris hated red because it was too close to pink and such a commercial Valentine’s colour. The sales assistant kept grinning at him. He couldn’t tell if she was genuinely excited about people getting engaged or if she was happy about the commission she had just earned. Either way he didn’t care he was heading home to ask the most important question of his life.
Chris placed the phone back on the receiver with a shaky hand. The conversation that had just taken place over the phone was about to change Chris and Michael’s lives forever. Chris headed towards the lounge room and took a seat in one of the single arm chairs. How could such news be delivered to a partner? What was the best possible way? Chris’s own hands were still shaking. Phoenix the cat sensing that something was up pounced up onto Chris’s lap and started purring.
“You wouldn’t understand Phoenix,” Chris said running a hand down the tabbies back. Phoenix arched his back enjoying the attention.
“But things are certainly going to be different,” Chris mused. As the shock started to wear off the excitement started to settle in. There was going to be a new addition to the household. Michael and Chris unable to have their own children had been on the adoption waiting list for a very long time and finally they had been approved. They would still have to wait for the appropriate child to be available but they were officially on that waiting list now and that was bounds and leaps further than they had ever been before. Phoenix started meowing indicating that it was getting close to dinner time. Chris headed to the kitchen and put some cat food in the bowl and checked the cat’s water. Then it was time to check on the roast in the oven. Michael’s favourite dinner was roast and that’s what he was going to get this Valentine’s. The pork had crackled nicely and the vegetables were perfectly crispy. The table was set with the best china and cutlery. They tried to veer away from the cliché romantic but today seemed such a special occasion that Chris couldn’t help ducking down to the corner store and grabbing some candles and flowers. There was a moment when the thought that the oven was still on. Then a huge sigh of relief when it was found to be off.
The familiar sound of Michael’s message tone floated through the house. Even though years had passed, Chris still got a tingle every time that Michael sent a message.
On my way home babe. Xxx <3
Chris smiled and started dishing out the dinner that was to be served to a man that was about to find out he could finally be a father. This day couldn’t get any more perfect.
Michael turned the car into his street. His heart was hammering in his chest so loud that he couldn’t even hear all the rubbish romantic songs the radio station was playing. He turned the car into the driveway and killed the ignition. He couldn’t find the courage to get out of the car. He sat there and took some deep breaths trying to slow his heart down. He knew that Chris would have heard the V8 engine pull in and would be waiting for him to come inside. What if Chris said no? That was the biggest fear that Michael had. Finally Michael was calm enough to get out of the car and head up the front steps. He fumbled with the door knob but after a few tries he was able to open the door. The smell that greeted him made his mouth water. He headed straight to the kitchen where Chris was standing by a beautifully set table.
“Happy Valentine’s Day baby,” Chris exclaimed as they embraced.
“Happy Valentine’s,” Michael whispered as their lips met. When they parted Chris was grinning from ear to ear. “Do you know something?”
Chris nodded but turned and headed to the table.
“Dinner’s getting cold.”
Michael took his seat and looked at the mouth-watering meal in front of him.
“This looks amazing babe,” Michael sighed. The two of them spent the whole meal looking at each other and smiling. Both wondering what the other knew that they didn’t. But each knowing how much they loved the other. They stopped every few mouthfuls to exchange kisses or to hold hands. The words I love you were uttered numerous times.
“Michael,” Chris started.
“Chris,” Michael started at the same time.
“No you go.” They said the same time back and forth for a few rounds. Finally Chris decided to go first.
“Michael, you’re going to be a father,” Chris exclaimed. Tears sprung to Michael’s eyes. This was the best news that he had ever heard.
“We got approved?” he cried with his hand over his mouth.
“Yes now all we have to do is wait for the right child to be available for us,” Chris exclaimed teary eyed as well.
“Oh my God,” Michael cried. “We have waited so long. I can’t believe it’s true.”
“Chris there’s something I want to ask you,” Michael started and the moment that he put his hand in his pocket and his fingers closed around the velvet box the phone started ringing.
“Can you get it babe? I have to start on dessert,” Chris asked. Michael didn’t even hesitate to accommodate the request.
“Hello Michael speaking,” he said into the receiver.
“Mr Robertson?” the voice on the other end asked.
“Yes that’s me,” he replied.
“A colleague of ours spoke to your partner earlier from the adoption agency,” the voice continued.
“Yes they did,” Michael proceeded cautiously as he had an uneasy sinking feeling in his stomach. It would be just his luck that they were ringing to say that the decision had been revoked.
“Well there has been a situation,” the voice on the phone continued. It felt as though someone had put a hand into his chest and was squeezing the life out of his heart. The happiest moment of his life was about to be turned on a dime he could just feel it.
“I thought there would be,” he snapped. He was ready to hang up the phone.
“Mr Robertson,” the voice pleaded.
“What?” he growled.
“We’ve had an urgent extraction of a child and haven’t been able to get anyone on the phone. I understand it’s Valentine’s night and you and your partner are probably busy but we would really appreciate it if you could give this child a home tonight,” she said.
Michael opened and closed his mouth a few times but no words could come out.
“We understand if it’s too soon or too much of an imposition. We know it is an abnormal scenario and there is still a lot of paperwork to go but we would really appreciate your help.”
Michael could still not form the words. Chris noticed that Michael was struggling and took the phone off him.
“Hello Chris speaking,” Chris said into the receiver. Chris nodded and muttered a number of Uh-huh’s as the situation was explained. “Oh my God,” Chris cried. “Oh my God,” Chris repeated again. Then Chris grabbed a pen and some paper scribbled down and address and hung up the phone.
“Michael, we’re going to be a family tonight,” Chris exclaimed. They threw their arms around each other and couldn’t help the tears that spilled over. Chris grabbed the keys and headed out to the car. They headed to the location they had been given and were escorted through what looked like a school dorm. There were taken to a room where a boy of about six cowered in the corner on the floor. The lady that was showing them the way held her hand out to the little boy.
“Justin, this is going to be your new family,” she explained. The boy just stared with wide eyes. “They are safe,” she continued. He blinked at them and didn’t move.
“Do you like roast pork?” Michael asked. The boy shook his head.
“What do you like?” Chris asked. The boy clamped his mouth shut.
“He likes ice-cream,” the worker told them.
“Would you like it if we got ice-cream on the way to your new house?” Chris asked holding out a hand. Justin looked at the hand. He stood up and took Chris’s hand. They walked out to the car together and after fitting a car seat loaned to them by the establishment they headed to get ice cream. It took a little while before Justin would talk to them. The establishment had told of his delicate situation and neither of Justin’s new parents were concerned about his lack of conversation. They knew that it would just take some time for him to settle into his new circumstances.
They showed Justin to the room they had set up months ago in hope that they would one day be able to put a child in there. They offered to read stories but Justin was just interested in sleeping. They tucked him in and kissed his forehead. Then the two of them stood in the doorway and watched until the rise and fall of Justin’s chest deepened indicating that he was asleep. They looked back and forth from Justin to each other. After all these years of trying and rings they had jumped through and other obstacles they had overcome they were finally here.
“What a perfect end to a perfect Valentine’s Day,” Chris sighed.
“Absolutely perfect,” Michael whispered as he wrapped his arms around his partner.
They carefully shut the door and headed back downstairs.
“Oh no the dessert I was making is ruined,” Chris cried.
“I’m full of ice cream,” Michael laughed. The two of them kissed and headed to the lounge room to cuddle up on the couch and watch television. The laughed and cried their way through a romantic comedy. Then they started to get ready for bed. But they couldn’t help peeking in Justin’s door and watching him sleep for almost half an hour.
“I love him,” Chris cried. “I only just met him and I love him so much it aches.”
“I love him and I love you,” Michael whispered wrapping his arms around Chris’s waist. Chris turned until their lips were locked in a passionate embrace. The scrambled down the hallway to the bedroom.
“Michael?” Chris asked.
“Yes dear,” Michael replied through his toothbrush in the ensuite.
“I have your present,” Chris called out from the bedroom. Michael finished brushing and spat in the sink.
“I still have yours,” Michael added.
“Me first,” Chris exclaimed handing Michael an envelope. Inside the envelope were two tickets to Hawaii.
“Oh my God,” Michael cried putting his hands over his mouth. “That’s a million times better than my present.”
“I will love whatever you give me. We have a family now and that’s all I need,” Chris told him. Michael guided Chris to the bed. Chris sat down and Michael pulled the blue box out of his pocket and got down on one knee.
“Christopher,” Michael started then he stopped to take a deep breath. Then he looked into his partners eyes and knew that this was the perfect moment. “You are the most important thing in my life, would you do me the honour of being my….” Then he stopped. “I’m sorry that was tacky. Nothing rhymes with husband.”
“Yes,” Chris cried as Michael put the ring on his finger.
“This has been the perfect Valentine’s,” Michael said.
“I got you a card too but it’s not as great as the gift,” Chris said.
The two of them opened identical “To my fiancé” cards and laughed.