© 2001, Julie Orlando
Lara awoke, slowly coming to the realization that the space next to her in the bed was empty. She frowned. Today of all days... She slipped out of bed and pulled her robe on, wrapping it tightly around herself against the chill of the morning.
She padded down the hall, following the soft light that seeped from underneath the door of the study. She poked her head in the room to find her wayward boyfriend inside. He was hunched over the desk in a thick hooded sweatshirt, glasses slipping down his nose a little as he scrunched it in concentration.
"Good morning," Lara whispered from the doorway.
Nick looked up sharply, startled, then his face broke into a grin. "Hey there, gorgeous."
"You're up early."
"I know, I'm sorry. We have an early meeting this morning, and I wanted to go over some things beforehand. Did I wake you?"
"No, it's okay...."
He rose from the desk, and his long legs carried him across the room to her in three easy steps. He wrapped her in his arms and kissed the top of her head. When she turned her face up to look at him, he captured her lips briefly with his own. "Much better."
Lara smiled up at him, running her fingertips up and down his back. "So where are we going for dinner tonight?"
Nick shrugged noncommittally. "Staying in, the usual? I dunno, but I gotta get ready for this meeting." He kissed her again, a quick peck on the lips, then slipped out of her arms and out of the room. "Love ya, baby," he called back over his shoulder.
She stared at the door helplessly. "But it's Valentine's Day....."
The day seemed to drag on endlessly for Lara. One thing after another piled up on her desk, but she couldn't get anything accomplished through the gloom. She finally trudged next door to her friend's small office and slumped in the chair across the desk from the woman.
Julie smiled cheerfully. "Hi, what's up?"
Lara sighed and rubbed her face with her hands. "I just can't concentrate today."
"Too busy dreaming off all the things you and Nick have planned for tonight?" There was a knowing gleam in her eye.
Lara scoffed. "Hardly."
Julie gaped at her. "Oh, don't tell me Mr. Rock Star forgot?!?" Lara just shrugged. "No! That little twirp! Augh. Black, black day. I tell ya. The most romantic day of the year, and it's always just a let down." She sat back in her chair and propped her feet on her desk, having made her point. When she did, white socks with bright red hearts all over them peeked from between her shoes and her pant cuffs.
Lara allowed herself a small giggle. "Black day, huh?"
"Your socks. I thought you hated 'V-Day', as you call it."
"Oh, I say I do. Deep down I'm really a hopeless romantic." Lara laughed, and Julie smiled at her. "That's better. Go have some chocolate and forget all about him until tonight."
"Is chocolate your answer for everything?"
They were interrupted by their boss stopping by the open door. "Don't forget, Julie, I need those finances by tomorrow." He continued on his way.
Lara stood. "I'd better let you go. Thanks." She gave her friend a small smile.
"Any time," she said. "And just wait. I'm sure he didn't totally forget. He's probably got something up his sleeve. He always does."
"Maybe." She shrugged. "Thanks again."
Lara pulled into the driveway and waited a moment before getting out of her car. She was almost afraid to go inside only to discover that Nick had, in fact, forgotten all about the special day. She sighed. She couldn't stay in the car all night, either.
When she opened the door to the house, everything was dark and silent. She noticed a white rose sitting by her toes, and a red one a few feet beyond it. A path of alternating red and white flowers led her up the stairs and down the hall. She rounded the corner to the dining room with her armful of roses to find Nick standing by the table, set for a candlelit dinner for two. He was dressed in black dress pants and a midnight blue button-down shirt, and he was holding two final roses, one white and one red. Their stems were wrapped in red and white ribbons, twisting to look like a candy cane.
He spread his arms wide and smiled at the look of shock on Lara's face. "What? Did you think I'd forget Valentine's Day?"
"Oh, Nicky..." she breathed. She crossed the distance between them and wrapped her free arm around his back. They kissed passionately, and when they finally parted he handed her the last two roses.
She added them to the bunch in her arms and buried her face in the scent of the blooms. Her hand followed the ribbons binding the last two flowers together, stopping when it encountered something round tied to the ends of the strands. She looked down and gasped at the sight of the gold band in her hand, a single diamond within a platinum circle set into the gold. When she looked up to her boyfriend for an explanation, she found him on one knee before her.
"Lara, every day that I'm with you I feel like I'm dreaming. And every day, I pray that I never have to wake up. Baby, please, will you marry me?"
She dropped the flowers she'd been cradling and fell to her knees before him. She took his face in both of her hands and met his clear blue eyes with her own. She kissed him tenderly then looked into his eyes again, though she could no longer see him clearly through the tears. "Yes." She smiled, and it turned into a giggle full of nervous joy. "Yes," she said again. "I love you so much Nicky."
"I love you too, Lara." He untied the ring from the ribbons and placed it on her left hand. "Happy Valentine's Day."
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