Richard W. Reith

VALENTINE’S DAY

Valentine’s Day 2/14/2006

It was a grey, somber San Antonio day as he pulled himself up into the Sunset Limited. The smell of the engine, the sterile colors of the train added to his mood. A bad day, finally leaving his soon-to-be ex-wife, Samantha.

Ten years of staying true to his vows. Years of counseling and mediation, arguments and tears. But she was incapable, or unwilling, of remaining faithful. He managed a promotion to the west coast to start life anew.

Dave’s lifestyle had been too fast-paced to ever travel by train. However on this, his “Rebirthday”, he knew he needed the time to unwind and deal with his pain.

He unpacked in his “roomette” then walked toward the dining car.

As he entered the car, Dave stopped short.

Rebekkah!

God, it had been 15 years since they were an item in high school. College took them to opposite sides of the country, and they lost touch.

She was still drop-dead gorgeous.

“Rebekkah?”

“Dave?”

And they talked. It felt as though they’d never been apart.

“I’ve realized that I’ll probably never get married,” said Rebekkah at one point. “At 35, the never-married men are unmarried for a reason, and divorced ones have far more issues than I want to deal with.”

Dave understood the baggage he carried from the divorce, his deep feelings of failure. Mentioning it now would change the whole context and content of their conversation. He decided not to talk about it.

He hadn’t noticed the young boy until he came over.

“Mommy! Read to me?”

“Yours?” Dave said quietly.

“Yes. My most precious possession. Tommy, say hello to Mr. Waite.”

Tommy just waved.

“Nice to meet you Tommy.”

Throughout the trip they talked: of their careers, life since college, her dreams, disappointments, and hopes for the future.

Finally, the train pulled into LA. He walked Rebekkah towards the station, Tommy just slightly ahead of them. Suddenly, he collapsed on the platform.

Dave rushed to the boy but Rebekkah got there first. She screamed “He’s not BREATHING!” She quickly knelt down and started CPR.

“911, what is your emergency?” said the operator.

“I am at Union station! We have a child collapsed and not breathing! Send an ambulance. HURRY!”

The paramedics burst onto the platform with medical gear and a stretcher, taking over CPR while one EMT pulled the wailing Rebekkah aside.

The next hours were frightening beyond his imagining. Tommy was on life support as the doctors struggled to keep him alive.

Finally, a doctor took them aside. “Our tests uncovered a major atrial septal defect, between the chambers of his heart. Was there any indication of this prior to this episode?”

“I was assured he just had a heart murmur.” Rebekkah replied.

“It is much worse than that. Tommy is already prepped for surgery to repair the defect.” the doctor replied, then talked of the dangers.

Everyone understood there was no choice, and the papers were quickly signed.

The Pediatric Surgery waiting room was well appointed. Rebekkah was alternately lost in sobs, then in her thoughts. Finally, Dave took her by the hand to a couch and sat down behind her. His arms tightened around her ribs and gently pulled her against him. She laid her head back on his shoulder, and whimpered, “Please, Dave, don’t… “

“Look, Rebekkah. Right now you need to be held by someone who cares. Just let me help.”

She didn’t reply. She disappeared. Into her thoughts. Into her pain.

The scent of her hair, the sight of her slender neck sent a tsunami of emotions through him. Her pain was his pain; there was so much he wanted to say to comfort her.

All that came out was a repeated whisper, “It will be all right. I promise.”

The next night her parents arrived from Texas. Tommy was stable in the PICU. Dave knew it was time to take his leave.

They meandered around the hospital grounds hand-in-hand.

“Thank you for being here for us.”

“Thanks for allowing me.”

“Dave, I don’t want you to take this wrong. I am not giving any signals. I just needed you and am grateful you were here for me. “

“No signal received. Who knows, had we not been so far apart in college, things might have been different, but those times were long ago. I’m just glad that I was able to be here for you instead of your dealing with this alone. “

A kiss on her cheek, with the scent of Crescendo filling his senses.

And he left.

Valentine’s Day 2/14/2007

It took him a long time to break free, emotionally. From Samantha. From Rebekkah.

But Nicolette had shown him that he was finally ready to move on. A month of dating wasn’t that long, but long enough to know.

Valentine’s Day 2/14/2008

Dave strode into the regional headquarters building.

In his attaché case was the engagement ring he picked up this morning. Tonight, on his second “Rebirthday”, he would take the first steps into a new life with Nicolette.

He had made his peace with this. No, he didn’t feel the passions for Nicolette that he once felt for Samantha, but they were good together. He knew they would be happy. He loved deeply once, and it brought nothing but pain. This was safer. Much safer.

“Damn, someone’s in a hurry!” he laughed to himself. The rapid click, click, click of heels on the atrium’s marble floor closed in on him.

Suddenly he felt a hand in his, stopping him in his tracks.

He didn’t know whether he recognized the perfume, the straw blonde hair, or her eyes first.

“Rebekk…… “

A finger to his lips stopped him before he could finish.

“I was home visiting my parents, and heard what happened between you and Samantha.” Rebekkah said softly.

“David, we need to talk.”

No, they didn’t. Everything she wanted to say was in her eyes.

And suddenly he knew:

He was going to have a ring resized.

Quickly.

Author’s Note: This was a response to a challenge on another site to write a short story with a real plot line, with the restriction that it could not be over 1000 words. Hope some of you enjoy it.