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The Red Envelope

Candles lit, wine poured, cupcakes frosted, filet mignon in the oven, and a bowl of conversation hearts on the coffee table. As the final touch, I placed the red envelope against the vase of fresh flowers in the center of the table. Brian was on his way over, and I was a tangle of excitement and jitters. Valentine’s day, for the first time in my life, was going to be romantic and wonderful, like it was supposed to be. I wanted it to be perfect. I didn't want to screw it up.

Brian arrived with a bottle of champagne in one hand, a box of Godivas and a DVD in the other.  His smile showed off his dimples – Oh! Those dimples! – and his eyes twinkled as he said “Happy Valentine’s day, sweetness.” I kissed him before he was even through the door; we lingered on that kiss for a moment before we went to the kitchen. I exhaled, calm again.

I served up bacon-wrapped filet with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. With a California Merlot, we toasted. “This is perfect,” he said of the steak. “Delicious!” he affirmed as he tasted each side dish. Finally, his eyes caught the red envelope on the table.

“Is this for me?” he said, grinning. Dimples, oh! I nodded and motioned for him to open it. My jitters came back tenfold as he opened the envelope and tugged gently on the card, handling it with the delicacy of a fine confectioner decorating a chocolate truffle.

Inside the card were the three words, in my neatest hand, which I’d longed to say for three months. Actually, I think it was four words. I threw a “madly” or “crazy” in there somewhere. I couldn't wait to see his dimples again when he read it.

Brian was reading it. And reading it. No dimples. He must have been reading it over and over again to let my words sink in. I resisted the temptation to jump up and down like a kid and say “Didja read it yet? Whaddya think? Say it back!”

He closed the card, stuffed it back into the red envelope, and dropped it on the table, this time with the carelessness of a confectioner who had just botched a batch of truffles. He did not make eye contact with me. He took a swig of wine.

“Get a grip,” he said softly, but absolutely.

The moment froze and I had no thoughts, no emotions, no anything. Then chills started to swirl around me, my mouth agape, and my heart started pounding and I started to sweat. The words I had prepared to say got lost in a million, billion thoughts that immediately cluttered my head and made my throat tighten. I needed to say something but I had no words to follow his. Don’t cry, Dana, I pleaded to myself, pulling it together. He didn't mean it. Maybe you misunderstood him.

“You shouldn't love me,” said Brian at last, although it was much more a judgment than a suggestion.

“But I do,” I replied simply, opting for truth.

This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.

Brian returned to his dinner and wine, so I did the same. I was thinking about something, anything to say next. I thought maybe I should ask him how he felt about me, but I couldn't handle hearing the answer out loud. I thought maybe I should break up with him, because it felt pointless spending all my time with him if my feelings weren't reciprocated. I thought maybe he was going to break up with me because, let’s face it, I really screwed up.

“You have to teach me how to make steak like this,” Brian said, not breaking up with me at all. “This is fantastic.” His dimples came back. Stunned, but not wanting to screw up again, I smiled back at him without saying anything. I fetched two cupcakes, one for each of us. It seemed he had already forgotten about that red envelope, and I felt a strange comfort in that.

After we finished dessert and polished off the Merlot, Brian popped the champagne and poured two glasses. “Let’s watch the movie,” he suggested, as sweetly as ever, as if nothing had happened.
Feeling tipsy by now, I agreed and set up the DVD player.

We settled on the couch under a blanket with our champagne and conversation hearts. The red envelope remained discarded on the dinner table. I pressed the play button. Brian put his arm around me and pulled me close.

“Do you want some lovin’ before the movie?” he whispered to me.

I flinched at the word. Oblivious to the irony, he took my hand and led me to the bedroom. The movie played on in the background.

The next day, the red envelope still sat on the table, in the same spot where Brian had tossed it. I threw it in the recycle bin.




Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Right? It should be no surprise that I don't get too excited over Valentine's Day.

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  2. What a sad story. I love the details about the meal and the comparisons to the truffles. The image of you recycling the card was a great way to end.

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    1. Thanks, Marcy. Fortunately it turned out to be a good learning experience, if nothing else!

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  3. "Get a grip?" Holy shit. What an ass. I'm so sorry. I hope you are no longer with this individual, and I'm sending you Valentine's love now. This story was so well told I was angered and embarassed right along with you when he reacted to the card in such a way, and then left it sitting there on the table.

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    1. Thank you Angela. Nope, that relationship didn't last much longer. Thanks for the V-day love! :D

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  4. I agree with the man. You shouldn't love him.

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    Replies
    1. Right you are, Pete. Didn't take me too long to fall out of love with him!

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  5. Grr, this guy is entitled to his feelings, but he could at least bother to explain himself nicely, not "get a grip."
    There is nothing worse than impulsively writing, texting, or emailing your feelings for someone impulsively, then having them figuratively smack you in the face for it. I think we've all been there.

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    1. Exactly. When someone is really putting themselves out there, the other should at least be kind... even if they don't agree!

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  6. Ouch! Oh, what a line, "get a grip."

    I love the way you've told this. And hey, let's we spinsters stick together.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Esther. I know, three words I was not expecting to hear on Valentine's day... It's no wonder I'm a spinster! :)

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  7. Wow, did he ever not deserve steak, truffles, cupcakes, wine, champagne or you! He could have been honest but not cruel; "Get a grip" was cruel. You told this well; I was sailing along with you in romantic bliss and then crashed and numbed when he spoke those awful words and then went right on with the evening. Ouch.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Louise! There's a fine line between honesty and brutality... this guy wasn't very good at staying on the honesty side.

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  8. Woah. The tension here is palpable. And yet he sounds as judgmental of himself as you. "You shouldn't love me". What an asshole. And yet he kept on so he could get it on and watch the movie. How frustrating.

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    1. I sort of hate myself for not standing up to him, even more so for going to bed with him that evening. But I suppose it could have been worse... I could still be with him today! (thank goodness I'm not.)

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  9. I wanna toss his steak in his lap for you -- what an ass!

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    Replies
    1. Haha! I should have done that!

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  10. Ugh, I want to throw that wine in his face for you. I loved the way you wrote this. The beginning is so sweet and light and fun, and that "get a grip" is like a blast of cold water after a hot shower. I was right there with you.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Samantha! That's pretty much how it felt!

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  11. You write wonderfully. It was like being caught up in a really good book. Did he EVER say it back!???!? EVER??!?!?

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    Replies
    1. Nope. Never, never ever. But I never tried to say it again, either.

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  12. Wow. Just...wow. "Get a grip"? Ouch.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, ouch. I would have rather him lied to me!

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  13. This was awesome writing, Dana. I felt like I was sitting there at the table w/ the two of you. I know the personal stories are the hardest to tell sometimes, and that's why they're the most powerful. . . Well done!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jared! Yes, these are the easiest stories to write, but the hardest to post! Giving them to the world seems to make it more official, or something. No longer just a memory, but now a reality.

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  14. OK, that guy's a dick-wad. He could have at least been more tactful. Ugh!

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  15. whaaaat an aaaaaasssss!! ugh! i hate that valentine's day!! freaking dimples! really engaging read though. totally into it.

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  16. "Get a grip" may be the most horrifying reaction to an "I love you" I've ever heard. What an ass. I'm sorry you went through this and I loved everything about your writing here - gripping!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes, a bit heartbreaking for sure.

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  17. I'm actually shaking my head in disbelief. What an asshole. "Get a grip"? Who says that. But then he turned it all around for dessert. I HATE his dimples!!! But I was sitting there with you the whole way because this was a wonderfully tole, yet frustrating, story.

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  18. You wrote this story wonderfully; I was completely captivated. And I can't believe that dimpled ass hat! Reading your story, I felt that I would have reacted the same way as you did. Though I haven't had this same experience, I can definitely relate to the later feelings of regret for letting someone treat me so cruelly.

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  19. There is nothing like taking a leap of faith and finding out there is no net at the bottom. I'm sorry you have that memory.

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  20. "Get a grip" -- the three words every girl waits her whole life to hear. What a jackass! I'm so glad you eventually gave him the boot.

    A very well told story, Dana. I enjoyed your writing as much as I disliked your boyfriend. :)

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  21. Aww, honey....I'm so glad he was kicked to the curb shortly after. You definitely deserves so much better!

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  22. Karen Fleischhauer13 February, 2013 16:29

    You are an amazing writer and story teller!!! You had me on the edge of my seat the entire time!!! I am so impressed! Wow, but as equally not impressed by him though. :(

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  23. Wow my heart broke into a million pieces with you. A man as careless of your feelings as this does not deserve your love. Beautiful telling of a heart wrenching story.

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  24. It is immensely painful when you put the words out and they aren't reciprocated. Being casual with the same word must have made it much worse. I feel for you.

    WG

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! and thanks for reading!

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  25. Holy crap.
    This was so good!
    I wanted to punch that douche canoe right in his baby-maker!! Grrr. Man oh man you did an amazing job of retelling this story. So amazing. And I am so glad that you are not with that jackhole any more.

    Also, sorry for all of my cusses. Haha. You got me all worked up!

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    Replies
    1. Don't apologize for the cusses. I needed some new stuff for my own curse vocabulary! Douche canoe! Haha! Thanks for reading. :)

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  26. Wow. Get. A. Grip. That was a weird thing to say.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it sure was. Because of this experience, I will probably never be the first one to say it ever again. I fear what the next guy will say in response!

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  27. Boys. That is all. Except that you rock and this post was perfect.

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  28. And men wonder why we put up walls. Jeez. Your writing hit all the right notes, though. I was crushed by his response, too. You certainly sound like someone whose love deserves to be reciprocated! And really, whose doesn't?

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    1. Aw, thanks. And so true, even if he didn't feel the same way about me, why is it so bad that I loved him?

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  29. wow. i'm friggin pissed now. what a prick.

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  30. What an asshole. That's just horrible. Glad you gave him the boot. You did a fantastic job telling the story and the recycle bin is a nice touch. Hugs to you for Valentine's Day.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, and hugs back to you!

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  31. What a horrible Valentine's Day that turned out to be! Glad he's no longer in your life. ;)

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