By Tamrie Foxtail
“You do know I don’t ski?” Andy said, casting a slightly bemused look at his daughter.
Kealy shrugged, corners of her mouth turning up in an impish grin, eyes sparkling. “There’s a first time for everything.”
“I’m too old to start breaking bones.” He watched the taxi pull away.
His cell phone rang. He reached for it automatically. Kealy held out her hand.
“You promised. Hand it over.”
He placed the phone in her hand. “Surely you had a better offer than spending Valentine’s Day with your old man.”
“You’re not old. Besides, I didn’t want you feeling down, thinking about how you and Mom would be married twenty-seven years on Thursday.”
He had been working not to remember that.
“Wait here,” Kealy said when they reached the check in area.
He watched his daughter stride boldly to the desk, her cell phone in hand, thumbs flying as she sent a text. She signed them in and handed over her credit card. When had his baby girls stopped being babies?
“What did you and Mom do your first Valentine’s Day together?” Kealy asked when she returned with a key.
“Didn’t they give you two keys?”
“Don’t need two. Answer the question.”
“I gave your mom a rose and a candy bar.”
Kealy stopped in the middle of the hallway. “A candy bar?”
“We were freshmen in college. I was chronically broke. After I gave her the rose and the candy bar we went to the court house and got married.”
Glory had been two months pregnant. The first time they’d made love, the night before heading home for Christmas break, had rocked their world in more ways than one.
Glory hoped Kelly didn’t expect her to ski.
“Kel, why don’t you let me help pay for this?”
Her daughter gave her a hug. “I got it. I told you, this is a mother/daughter treat. I don’t want you depressed on Valentine’s Day thinking how it’s your anniversary.”
Great. Now she couldn’t think about anything else.
Kelly reached for her phone when it gave a little ping. Whatever she read in the text made one corner of her mouth curve in a smile.
How had she ended up with such beautiful daughters?
“Wait here,” Kelly said. “I’m going to check us in.”
Glory sipped at her coffee while she waited for Kelly to return.
Twenty-seven years. Instead of celebrating it with Andy she was spending it with one of their daughters. At least two good things had come of their marriage.
Kelly held up the key card. “Second floor.”
Glory fell into step beside her daughter. “I wish Kealy could have joined us.”
“Maybe next time. Oh, I left my card at the desk. You go on.”
“I can wait for--”
“No, go on.” Kelly pressed the key card into Glory’s hand.
Minutes later Glory unlocked the door to their room, stepped inside and came face-to-face with her husband.
Andy shook his head. “Why does the phrase ‘set up’ come to mind?”
“I had nothing to do with this.”
“Of course not. You’re the one who wanted a separation.”
“I don’t want to fight. Just call the girls.”
Andy reached for his cell phone. “Shit! That little villain conned me into giving up my phone.”
Glory laughed, the sound not one of amusement. “Kelly got mine, too.”
He studied the woman he’d spent more than half his life with. She looked anything but pleased.
“Let me guess, our darling daughter talked you into a mother/daughter trip?”
“Kealy talked you into a father/daughter vacation?”
He gave a short nod, picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed Kealy’s cell.
“Get back here, young lady.”
“Sorry, Dad. Kelly and I are just stepping into the taxi. We’ll see you in a few days.”
“You’ll see me in five minutes. Get back here. Kelly, too.”
Kealy’s voice turned soft, the laughter fading. “You and Mom have been married for almost twenty-seven years. We’re not going to let the two of you just throw that away. You and Mom got married because of us. Can’t you spend a couple of days together for the two of us? We love both of you, but you’re on your own until Friday. Bye.”
He looked at the silent phone in his hand before turning his gaze to his wife. He ran his fingers through his short hair, a habit Glory had once told him was sexy. Did she still think that?
“All right. No big deal. I’ll call the front desk and get another room.”
Glory alternated her attention between the snowy view and Andy.
The man had aged well. He had a tall, lean build that brought cowboys to mind rather than businessmen. Just a few strands of silver graced his temples. The lines that radiated from his blue eyes were sexy as hell.
He hung up the phone.
“The place is booked. They’ll let us know if there’s a cancellation.”
Her gaze flew around the room. One queen size bed. Not good. She walked over to the larger of the two chairs. Nope, not a recliner.
“Do they have a cot I can use?”
He narrowed those blue eyes that had made her knees weak when she was eighteen. Still did if she was honest with herself.
“Do you really think I’d take the bed and let you sleep on the cot?”
No. Andy was a gentleman, always had been.
“I’ll flip you for it.”
His smile crinkled the corners of his eyes. “That’s what you said about the shower that first time. We ended up sharing it.”
“Congratulations. You don’t have Alzheimer’s.”
He moved closer in that deceptively lazy way. She refused to back up, even when his hands came to rest on her shoulders.
“You’re the one who wants a divorce. Personally, I have a thousand happy memories from our marriage.”
Unfortunately, so did she. A thousand happy memories and one terrible one.
“Nice room.” he said, motioning to the window where the dark blue curtains were open. “Hell of a view.”
She turned her head to look at the snow covered vista. “I always wanted to see snow when I a kid.”
She jumped when Andy’s lips brushed her temple.
“What are you doing?”
He shrugged. “You looked like you needed a kiss.”
She took a step back now and he let his hands fall from her shoulders.
“We’re here until Friday. What are we supposed to do?” she asked.
“I can think of one thing.”
Sure he could.
“I’m not having sex with you.”
He smiled again, that sweet, smug twist of his lips that said he knew her far too well.
“While I’m in favor of making love--a suggestion that would definitely pass the time--I was actually thinking about dinner. I’m starved. Kealy said one of her clients recommended this place because the food was so good. Supposedly the skiing’s also good.”
“I’ve gone forty-five years without getting on skis. I’m not starting now.”
Andy stood up and stretched. “Let’s go downstairs and eat. Unless you want to call a taxi and go into town.”
She really didn’t want to spend time closed in the back seat of a car with him, smelling his cologne and absorbing his presence with nothing to distract her.
“Here. Since you’re so hungry.”
He held out his hand. She thought about just brushing past him, ignoring the gesture, but in the end she slipped her hand into his, noticing with a jolt that he still wore his wedding band.
The restaurant was busy, the only empty table next to the fire. Glory closed her eyes for a moment, absorbing the heat from the flames while taking in the scent of the burning logs. She opened her eyes to find Andy’s gaze focused on her.
“Just enjoying the fire,” she said.
They ate steaks and baked potatoes, carrying on a meaningless conversation about the lives of various friends.
Andy ordered chocolate cherry cheesecake for dessert. He took a small spoonful, tasted it and rolled his eyes in bliss. He dipped the spoon again and held it out to her.
“That’s okay,” she said.
“Try it. You know you love cheesecake.”
“I’m watching my figure.”
He gave her a playful wink. “Try the cheesecake. I’ll watch your figure.”
She really did want a bite of the dessert. It looked so sweet and rich poised on the end of his spoon. He’d scooped up a bite with chocolate curls and cherry sauce.
The spoon moved closer. She leaned forward, letting her lips close over the spoon and feeling the decadent dessert explode on her tongue.
They finished the dessert in silence with Andy taking a bite, then spooning the next for her.
When the waiter brought the bill Andy handed over his credit card.
Glory reached for her purse. “I can pay for mine.”
“I’ve got it.”
She looked at her watch, not quite seven. Outside the picture window the Colorado landscape was growing dark.
“Now what?” she asked.
“I suppose the answer that springs to my mind isn’t one you want to hear.”
Andy reached for her hand. “Glory, do you really want to throw away twenty-seven years of our lives?”
She pulled her hand from his and stood up. “I’ll be in the room.”
Andy watched her go. His gaze swept over the dining room, coming to rest on a couple who must have been in their nineties. He watched them hold hands, eyes only for each other.
Damn it! They’d married for better or worse. For more than a quarter of a century they’d faced both. Now the worst that could happen had thrown their world off its axis. He’d tried to give Glory time. Time was up.
The shower was going when he reached their room. Glory had always preferred to shower before bed. Surely she didn’t plan on going to bed this early?
Holding back a smile, he reached for the remote and searched the guide screen.
When Glory came out of the bathroom she found Andy, sitting in the bed watching TV. She pulled a paperback mystery from her purse. She refused to read a romance this close to Valentine’s Day and her anniversary.
Neither of the chairs had a lamp to read by. She chewed on her lower lip while she studied the lamps on the nightstands.
Keeping a watchful eye on Andy, she tossed her book on the chair, walked over to the nightstand and gave it a tug.
She staggered back a half-step, staring at the table.
“Something wrong?” Andy asked.
“No. I’m just going to move the nightstand over there so I can read.”
“It’s all one piece.”
“The nightstands and the headboard. It’s all one piece. I noticed it when we checked in. Beautiful workmanship.”
He would notice that. Andy loved woodworking. He’d made all the cabinets and bookcases in their house.
“You can sit in bed and read.” He turned that sexy smile on her. The same one that had coaxed her into sleeping with him in the first place.
It was too early to go to sleep so she slipped under the covers, plumped two pillows behind her back and opened her book.
The voices on the TV were low but familiar. She looked at the screen.
“You’re watching ‘While you were sleeping?’”
He turned innocent eyes on her. “You want me to turn it up? I know it’s one of your favorites.”
“I’m good.” She tried to focus on the last twenty pages of her paperback but her gaze kept returning to the romantic comedy.
She finished the book minutes before the movie ended, breathing a sigh of relief when Andy turned over to a documentary on the forbidden city of China.
She woke Wednesday morning with Andy snuggled against her back, his hand cupping her breast through the flannel nightgown.
For a moment she allowed herself to remember the past, waking up in the arms of the man she loved. And she did love him. It would be so easy to roll over, cup a sandpapery cheek in her hand and kiss him awake. They would make love leisurely and completely until their limbs were weak as water and their hearts thumped in a quick rhythm with each other.
She groaned softly. If she made love to him she’d never find the strength to set him free and let him heal.
She tried to move from beneath his arm without waking him but knew she’d failed when his arm tightened around her waist.
“I’ve missed you,” he said, his voice morning rough.
“Let me up, Andy.”
She was afraid he would continue to hold her and she’d be too weak to resist making love.
She sighed with relief and disappointment when he let her go.
They were heading down to breakfast when a polite knock sounded on the door.
Andy opened it to find a young woman holding a box wrapped in red foil and tied with white ribbon.
“We were told to deliver it to you today.”
He took the box, handed her a tip and closed the door.
“From the girls?” Glory asked.
When he looked at her she shrugged. “They know we’re here.”
Andy chuckled. “Open it now or after breakfast?”
They sat next to each other on the bed. He snapped the ribbon and she peeled back the paper.
“A book?” he asked as Glory pulled it from the paper.
“They’ve started scrapbooking.”
The sad note in her voice drew his attention.
“That’s a bad thing?”
She didn’t answer as she opened the dark green cover. On the first page the girls had placed Glory and Andy’s wedding photo, such as it was.
Eighteen years old, arms around each other, smiling awkwardly for the camera. He’d worn jeans. Glory had borrowed a white dress from her roommate, Katie.
“I didn’t own a white dress,” Glory murmured. “It’s never been a good color on me.”
“You were beautiful. You still are.”
She smiled at him, the first smile since their daughters had thrown them together.
He turned the page.
They sat side-by-side on a hospital bed, each one holding a baby.
“We were babies ourselves,” he said. “You gave up a lot for the girls. You put finishing college on hold for years because we couldn’t afford for both of us to go.”
She’d been twenty-eight when she finally graduated and went to work for a small architectural firm in Orlando.
She turned the pages slowly. They watched the twins grow: kindergarten, junior prom, high school graduation and college.
Andy didn’t realize Glory was crying until he saw the tear splash the back on her hand.
“They’re not here.”
“What?” he asked, then could have kicked himself. He knew what wasn’t there. It was glaring in its absence.
He kissed the top of her head. “They weren’t trying to hurt--”
She stood up swiftly, tossing the scrapbook on the bed and twisting from his reach.
“They didn’t put them in there because they don’t think I loved him.”
“Glory, that’s not true.”
She grabbed her coat and bolted out the door. He grabbed his coat and key and followed.
Glory didn’t pay attention to where she was going. The frigid air stung the damp tracks her tears left. She shivered and lowered her head watching her boots break through the thin crust on the snow.
She’d been thirty, the girls eleven, when Andy mentioned having another baby.
She hadn’t wanted a third child. Andy never pressed the issue. Then, days after her forty-fourth birthday that stupid little stick turned blue.
She’d cried, and even ranted a little, but accepted that she was going to have another child, planned or not.
And she had loved him. Months before little Thomas Andrew was placed in her arms for the first time, he’d already owned her heart.
Something hit the back of her head and she turned in disbelief, mouth dropping open just as Andy popped her with a second snowball.
He scooped up another handful of snow.
“What are you doing? Are you crazy?”
He glanced at the snowball, then at her and shrugged.
“You told me once that one of the bad things about growing up in central Florida was that you’d never been in a snowball fight.”
She simply stared at him, unable to come up with any response. Until the third snowball hit her in the chest.
Without thinking she scooped up a handful of snow, smashed it into a crude ball and threw it, missing him by a mile. She grabbed another handful.
Over and over Glory scooped the snow, compressed it and tossed, rarely hitting Andy and feeling none of the exuberance she’d always imagined went with a snowball fight.
Pain was her momentum. When the anguish had been exorcised, her body exhausted and shivering with cold, she simply dropped to her knees and let the tears consume her.
That tiny baby, her fragile son, far too small for a child of four months. She held him in her arms, careful of the tubes and machines, while his damaged heart struggled to beat. The machines in Pediatric ICU sounded a final alarm. Doctors and nurses swarmed the room. A howl of grief erupted from Andy, echoing the one in her heart.
The alarms were silenced for the last time.
Andy’s arms closed around her, pulling her close, seeking to comfort her.
For the first time in two months she let him.
Andy guided Glory to her feet. She leaned against him and he took her weight gratefully. A few heads turned when they walked into the lodge but he ignored them.
In their room he undressed Glory, stripped off his own clothes and turned the shower on.
She cried again as they stood beneath the steamy spray, the water stinging their frozen skin like bees.
At first she merely leaned her head against his shoulder and let him hold her. After a long moment her arms slipped around his back.
Afterwards she stood while he rubbed her skin dry.
“No,” she said, when he started to dry himself. She caressed his skin with the towel and when they were both dry and warm she raised her eyes to his.
“I didn’t want to get pregnant,” she whispered. “I didn’t want any more children.”
“But I loved Tommy. From the first moment I felt him move inside me, that tiny flutter like wings, I loved him. I wanted him from that moment on.”
He cupped her face in his hands, kissed one cheek and then the other.
“I know you did, sweetheart. I saw it in your eyes when you looked at him and in your hands when you touched him. You loved our son. No one ever thought otherwise.”
He studied the woman he’d loved for more than half his life.
“When you said you wanted to separate for a while, to think things over… I didn’t want to let you go but everyone, our families, our friends, even our daughters, kept saying you needed time to handle your grief. I didn’t want to be apart from you for even a day. I wanted to face our pain together, but I wanted even less to lose you.”
“You wanted more children.”
“You gave me two beautiful, smart, loving daughters. I was happy.”
“It was my fault.”
Understanding slammed into his mind and his heart.
“You think that because Tommy wasn’t planned his death was somehow your fault?” He pulled her into his arms.
“He was born with a serious heart condition. We knew from the beginning that unless he had a transplant he wouldn’t survive. That’s not your fault, Glory. Oh, sweetheart, how could you even think that?”
“Because of my age. What if our son died because I was too old?”
He folded his hands over her shoulders, setting her a little bit away from him so he could study her eyes.
“It took two of us to make him, Glory. Who knows what happened? The doctors couldn’t tell us why his heart was damaged.”
He kissed her mouth, her forehead, then her mouth again.
“Our son is gone. We were blessed to have him for the time we did. Don’t let our marriage be over, too. I’ve loved you since I was eighteen. I’ll still love you when I’m eighty. You’re trying to punish yourself for something that wasn’t your fault. We can heal each other, Glory, but only if you’ll stop blaming yourself.”
The next morning they woke in each other’s arms. Glory rubbed her cheek against his, loving the feel of his morning stubble.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” she whispered.
A knock on the door made them both frown.
Andy snatched his jeans off the floor and put them on.
Glory watched him open the door, saw a feminine hand reach in with a bouquet of roses, another hand held out a box of chocolates.
Andy turned to her with a grin.
“Chocolate, flowers and twins.”
Join us tomorrow for the next tail from Valentine Colorado