Marie hung up the phone with a smile, glad that her wish had come true. She'd already scheduled off Thursday and Friday, and now her four-day weekend had expanded to five with the office shutting down due to the snowstorm.
A quick peek out the window revealed that Jim was nearly done digging out her car from the thick blanket of snow that had buried it and her driveway. She almost hated to tell him that he'd done all the work for nothing.
Well, not really nothing, she thought as she pulled out the clips holding her hair in place, letting the dark tresses spill down to below her shoulder blades. She still felt the loss of a friend, neighbor, and coworker — Jim had lost his mother. He said that doing busy work helped him cope with the loss, and so she was unsurprised to find him already hard at work with his shovel when she first looked out the window upon awakening.
The sound of stomping on the porch let Marie know that he was on his way to the door, and so she retrieved a twenty from her purse. She couldn't help but grin as she headed toward the door to answer it, knowing what was to come.
The first rap of his knock had barely faded before Marie opened the door. "Come in and warm up, Jim."
"Do you want me to go start your car for you?" He asked as he pulled off his stocking cap and shook out his sandy blonde hair.
Marie shook her head. "The office decided it wasn't worth trying to open up today, so I'm staying home where it's warm. I appreciate it, though." She held out the twenty toward him.
Jim waved it away. "No, I don't need that, Marie. Just being neighborly."
She smiled, enjoying the game as always. He also hadn't slipped up and called her Ms. Collins, a habit she'd worked hard to break. "I insist. You've been out there forever. You deserve something for your trouble."
"You managed to save my paper when my laptop hard drive crashed, so we're even."
"No," Marie protested, waggling her finger. "That made us even for you cleaning out my gutters."
"That was for helping me sort through..."
Marie laughed and cut him off. "Okay, but I owe you a favor, and you're not going to talk me out of it. You're also going to have a cup of coffee before you go."
Jim chuckled and responded, "I know, and thank you." as he unbuttoned his coat against the heat of the house.
Marie felt her cheeks warming as he took off his coat. His well-defined muscles rippled beneath the shirt he wore, drawing her eyes like a magnet. She quickly turned toward the kitchen to hide her blush and said, "I'll be right back with that coffee."
Her blush only deepened as she remembered the first time she'd noticed he was no longer a gangly teenager. She'd actually followed him down the aisle of the supermarket like a lioness on the prowl when she saw him. When she turned the corner and saw his face, she'd ducked back into the aisle and quickly hurried in the other direction to hide her embarrassment. The thoughts going through her mind as she followed him were anything but platonic.
I really need to get out, she thought as she poured the coffee, unable to shake those thoughts from her head. Thirty-two, divorced, childless, and I'm getting tingly over a man almost half my age that I've known since he was in the eighth grade.
With a sigh, she picked up the two cups of coffee and walked back out into the living room, wincing when she realized she'd just thought of Jim as a man.
Marie slipped into bed with a book, but not one she planned to read. Three distinct sections of the pages showed parts, revealing that something was pressed between the pages. She opened to the first rose, as she'd done on February 13th for the last two years.
The first time had been a complete surprise. Fresh on the heels of her divorce, the mysterious arrival of a dozen roses and a box of her favorite chocolates on Valentine's Day had helped chase away the bout of melancholy she'd felt all day. There was no card to identify who'd sent the flowers, and she'd never picked up even a hint from anyone that she suspected might be her secret admirer. On impulse, she'd pressed one of the roses before it faded, and it was that flower that she looked at now with a smile.
Flipping to the next rose, she remembered how she'd awakened that year wondering if her mysterious admirer would surprise her again. He had, and she'd immediately placed one of the roses in her book. Last year had continued the pattern, resulting in the third pressed rose that she now observed.
Marie took a deep breath, still able to smell the rose. She wondered if it would happen again this year, and wondered how she would react if it didn't. She looked forward to that moment now each year more than she did Christmas, and the thought that the flowers might not arrive this year caused her chest to tighten.
She shook her head at the silliness of it all. She'd even taken time off from work this year so that she could be home all day. Her coworkers had jokingly asked her who the lucky man was, but she'd put them off with an excuse that she just needed some time to herself. The anticipation had set in only a week into January this year.
Marie slipped the book back into the drawer of her nightstand and turned out the light. She felt like a restless child who knew she was going to Disneyland the next day, and found sleep difficult. Attempts to quiet her mind proved fruitless, and her weariness combined with her racing thoughts to form a vivid daydream.
This time, her mysterious stranger didn't just send the flowers — he brought them to her. She conjured up a stunningly handsome man with eyes full of admiration and intense sexual energy. Marie felt the tingle of wetness between her legs as she imagined him feeding her a chocolate. The liquid center of the candy burst in her mouth, making her think of another eruption that she desired more by the moment.
She started awake for a moment when her hand crept between her thighs to discover her panties were damp. Even in the dim light, she could see her stiff nipples tenting the silky cloth of the chemise she wore to bed. Her body screamed for attention — demanded it. The drawer next to her bed opened again, but this time she retrieved something other than the book — a smooth white vibrator.
Marie traced the parting of her lips with her fingers once more, causing her to shudder. Giving in to the need, she hooked her thumbs beneath her panties and slipped them down. A quick lift of her bottom and a few shifts deposited her panties at her feet, even as she kicked the covers away from her body and parted her legs.
She laid the toy next to her right hip and pulled upward on the hem of her chemise, bunching up the cloth above her ample breasts. Marie moaned as she cupped the firm globes, gently squeezing them. Her fingers moved to the darker tips to trace the oval surrounding them, and then to caress the stiff points as well. Her hips rocked upward and her intimate muscles contracted as the touch heightened the heat building between her legs.
With a gasp, she reached for her vibrator and brought it to her lips. She slipped the tip into her mouth, suckling it to moisten it. A twist of the base caused a quiet hum to break the silence of the night, sending delightful tingles of anticipation flowing throughout her body.
The first touch of the buzzing toy to her damp folds caused a gasp to burst from Marie's lips. The ember of need within her sprang up into a bonfire of desire. She twitched as she glided the smooth tip over her folds, her fires growing higher still. A sharp, almost squealing moan burst from her as the toy made contact with her hood and the swollen bud beneath.
The necessity of the ache within her surged, and Marie answered the call of the void within her with her toy. As the vibrator slipped into her depths, the image of her anonymous admirer in her daydream did the same. Plastic and batteries vanished in her mind, replaced by what she truly needed.
Her lover took her slowly, letting her feel every wonderful inch of him with each thrust and withdrawal. In her mind's eye, she could see the adoration — and almost a sense of wonder — in his features as he made love to her. Marie felt little cold tingles throughout her body, the sensation almost like tiny drops of water falling in a mist on her flushed skin.
The urgency of her need increased with the swelling pressure of climax within her. Marie's hand moved faster, and her imaginary lover responded with equal speed. Now she could see the tightening of his face that indicated his own pleasure mounting as well. The momentum of her fast pumping hand caused the batteries in her toy to clack against the plastic shell, the power of the thrusts overcoming the resistance of the springs inside.
A series of short moans burst from her lips as she neared her peak. She could hear her lover gasping as he followed her on her upward spiral. At last, the bubble of building pleasure within her burst, and she tumbled over the edge into orgasm.
Marie cried out as a rush of heat flooded her body. She held her toy deep inside her, her thighs tightly pressed together as she trembled from head to toe. She could almost feel the hot burst of his cum filling her, and the pulsing of his thick shaft buried inside her. Her orgasm held her in a relentless grip, waxing and waning for what felt like hours, until she finally collapsed to the bed. The vibrator slipped from inside her as her hands fell heavily at her side, the slick plastic surface still buzzing as it rolled down under her bottom.
Eventually, she found the strength to turn off the toy and replace it in the drawer. A flittering thought that she should clean her vibe crossed her mind, but her spent body dissuaded her of that notion almost as soon as it occurred to her. She managed to smooth down her chemise and tug up her panties, and then drifted off into a blissful slumber with a satisfied smile on her face.
Marie awakened early, feeling for all the world like a child rising in anticipation of finding presents from Santa under the tree on Christmas. She shivered as memories of her fantasy from the night before crept into her mind, and then sighed as she considered that it was nothing more than a fantasy. Since her divorce, she'd barely dated, and she could count the number of times she'd had sex on the fingers of one hand with spares.
She treated herself to a breakfast with all the trimmings, a rare treat compared to the usual munching on a muffin as she hurried through the house in preparation for work. Having almost eaten too much, she retired to the couch and turned on the television.
Mixed feelings warred within her as the Valentine themed shows and commercials flashed across the screen. While she couldn't wait for the arrival of her yearly gift, she also felt nervous that it might not come this year. She also knew that she'd feel the touches of melancholy again after the initial warm rush of emotion when the flowers arrived. She had an admirer, but he apparently didn't plan to reveal his identity to her, which meant that she would never get to know him.
A knock on the door interrupted her whirling thoughts for just a second, and then her mind spun anew. She quickly crossed the floor toward the door, her heart beating fast. She felt a flash of disappointment when she opened the door to discover her mailman outside, not someone from the florist.
"Good morning, Ms. Collins. I thought I'd hand this off to you so it wouldn't get bent, since I saw your car here this morning."
"Thank you, Paul," Marie replied, a little curious about why he would hand-deliver something as simple as a couple of magazines that would have fit in the box without much trouble.
"The snow still keeping you away from work, I see?"
"I took some time off, actually."
The mailman grinned and chuckled. "Wish I could, but you know the saying — neither rain, nor snow ... It's a big day too. I wouldn't want to disappoint anyone expecting their Valentine's."
"True," Marie replied, and then shuddered as a gust of cold air whipped against her.
"I should get going and let you close the door before you freeze. Have a happy Valentine's Day, Ms. Collins."
"You too, Paul," she responded as he turned.
Marie closed the door and looked down at the magazines again. She looked out the window to see him glancing back over his shoulder toward the door.
The thought occurred to her that he might very well be her secret admirer. He'd divorced only a few months before her, and he'd immediately turned quite chatty the moment her ex-husband moved out his belongings. He certainly knew her address well enough, and she'd even mentioned her favorite brand of chocolates to him when he delivered a box of them to her.
She grinned and twitched her eyebrows, thinking that it wouldn't be such a bad thing to discover he was the one who sent her flowers. He didn't have movie star good looks, but he was handsome and fit from the daily walk delivering the mail. He had a sense of humor and a touch of chivalry that she certainly found becoming.
She looked out the window again, but he'd already passed out of her range of vision. She did see the paperboy, however. He was late again, and half-heartedly hurled her morning paper toward the house into the snow in the yard.
Grumbling under her breath and crossing her arms over her chest against the cold, she hurried out the door to retrieve the paper. As she bent to exhume it from the pit in the snow, a gust of wind whipped her dress, forcing her to hold it down lest she give the entire neighborhood a fine view of her thong-clad bottom.
When the wind calmed, she snatched up the paper and shook the snow off of it and her hand, scowling toward the paperboy, who was busy tossing everyone else's paper in the snow as he pedaled down the sidewalk. She saw someone out of the corner of her eye, and quickly retreated into the house when she made eye contact with her neighbor across the street. He was staring lecherously in her direction, obviously hoping for another, stronger gust of wind.
The encounter caused her to consider that someone far less desirable might be responsible for her yearly pick-me-up as well. It could be her perverted neighbor, her sleazy co-worker Matt, or her ex-husband's brother who called regularly to ask her out.
Marie scowled and shook her head to dislodge those thoughts. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin this little moment of happiness that visited her every year. She turned off the television and sat down to read the paper, at least happy to note that her portfolio was doing well, despite the volatility of the market in recent days.
Upon finishing the paper, she made a quick lunch of soup to counter the calories from her breakfast, constantly glancing toward the door and willing someone to knock on it. Her wish didn't come true, and the hours continued their slow march.
She nearly surrendered to the notion that nothing was coming this year as the afternoon wore on. Only the snow, the resulting travel difficulty, and the sheer volume of floral deliveries kept her hopes alive, but they were fading fast.
The knock she'd awaited with fading anticipation finally came as she headed toward the bathroom in the late afternoon. She veered toward the door, almost skipping in her eagerness to reach it. After taking a deep breath, she opened the door and smiled wide.
"Happy Valentine's Day," the young woman outside said through chattering teeth, a dozen roses and a box of chocolates held carefully against the cold wind.
"Come inside, you're frozen," Marie insisted as she stepped aside.
"And exhausted," the young woman said with a laugh as she stepped inside. "I love Valentine's Day, but I'm glad it's over right now. I've been up since 3 am, and I've been in the van for almost eight hours now." She handed over the flowers and candy. "Someone certainly loves you. That chocolate is ridiculously expensive, and Mandy said this order was put in before Thanksgiving last year."
Marie opened the box and sniffed the flowers, tingling with emotion. Her eyes widened when she saw a small card inside the box. Did he? She wondered, breathless in her hope that she might finally learn the name of her admirer.
Her finger trembled a little as she opened the card. The momentary flash of disappointment when she saw no name faded as she read the message — To what I wish could be with all my heart and soul.
She smiled and sighed, the words going straight to her heart. "Too bad I have no idea who he is," she said to the delivery woman.
"A secret admirer? That's so romantic," the blonde gushed. She then scowled and said, "If my boyfriend forgot again this year, I'm not speaking to him for a week."
"I don't suppose you could tell me who sent these, could you?" Marie asked with a chuckle.
The delivery woman shook her head. "I don't know, and I'd get in enormous trouble if I did and told you."
"I know. Thank you. Do you want a cup of coffee before you go?"
The blonde shook her head and said, "I should get back and drop the van off so I can go home and see if David's made up for last year."
"Good luck," Marie said as she opened the door.
"Hope you find out who he is," the delivery girl said before hurrying to her van.
Marie put the roses into the same crystal vase she'd used for the last three years, taking all the steps necessary to ensure that they lasted as long as possible. She then placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch and retrieved her book from the nightstand.
With one of the dozen roses carefully pressed in the book, she sat down to enjoy her chocolate. As always, her emotions ran high, prompting her to turn in early. Her toy again replaced her unknown lover to lull her to sleep in the warm afterglow of a powerful orgasm.
Marie started her morning with a chocolate and a lingering sniff of her roses. After running her fingers over the petals for a few moments, she retrieved her paper — which was on time today, though still out in the snow of her yard — and sat down.
The paper sat forgotten in her hand as she stared at the roses, wanting desperately to know whom it was who touched her so, each and every year. She felt like a silly high-school girl again for getting so emotional, but she couldn't help it. Just as she pulled the rubber band from the paper, someone knocked on the door.
"It's me again," Paul said as he handed her the mail. "Pictures — do not bend."
Marie saw the address and knew that the pictures were of her new niece. Wonderful, another reminder that my biological clock is ticking away, she thought, and then silently chided herself for thinking it. "Thank you, Paul."
"Those are some nice flowers," he remarked, nodding toward the vase on the coffee table.
"Thank you. I just wish I knew who sent them," Marie said, carefully studying his face for any hint that he might be responsible.
"Oh — mystery man, eh?" He chuckled and said, "That was how I wooed my wife. Hope it turns out better for you than it did me. Better get going."
"Have a good day."
"You too, Ms. Collins."
Marie shut the door. Nothing in his face had really told her anything, but his mentioning that he'd courted his wife the same way pointed strongly in his direction.
As she watched him walk away through the window, she considered cutting to the chase and hinting that she wouldn't be opposed to him asking her out. That would certainly let her know for sure, and she knew she could do worse than to get over her aversion to dating anyway. He was a bit of a social pariah because he'd left the church to become a vocal atheist after his divorce, but it didn't really concern Marie. She didn't have a great deal of faith in a higher power since her marriage disintegrated, either.
The sound of a car pulling into the driveway caused Marie to pull up short as she turned back toward the couch. A peek out the window at the car revealed that it was nobody she knew, but then the blonde delivery girl who had brought the flowers stepped out.
Marie waited until the young woman started up the stairs to the porch, and then opened the door. "Hello again..." She trailed off, fishing for a name.
"Amy." The delivery girl looked from side to side, appearing a little nervous. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," Marie agreed, holding the door open.
As soon as the door shut, Amy blurted out, "You can never, ever, ever tell anyone I did this."
Marie laughed and asked, "Did what?"
The young woman pulled a folded slip of paper out of her back pocket and said, "I had one of my friends look in the computer to find out who ordered those flowers for you."
Marie gasped and covered her mouth, her eyes locked on the slip of paper that would reveal the name of the man who'd given her reason to anticipate Valentine's Day again after her divorce. "I ... Thank you," she softly said.
Amy held out the paper and reiterated, "You have to promise never to tell anyone that I gave you that, please?"
Marie took the paper, gingerly holding it between her finger and thumb and noticing that she was trembling. "I promise. I'll never tell anyone."
The blonde breathed a sigh of relief and then asked, with girlish excitement, "Aren't you going to open it?"
Marie grinned and said, "I'm afraid to."
"Well, I've got to go before someone sees me here and starts asking questions. Will you let me know how it turns out? I work the afternoon shift at the florists most days."
"I will," Marie answered, and then glanced down at the slip of paper in her hand again.
"Good luck," Amy said, echoing Marie's words from the day before. She then let herself out.
Marie walked over to the couch and sat down, placing the folded answer to years worth of questions on the table in front of her, right next to the rose vase. She could just make out hints of words where the paper parted, teasing her and screaming at her to open it — but she couldn't will her fingers to pick it up again.
After a few minutes, she walked to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine, hoping the alcohol might live up to its name of liquid courage. She desperately wanted to know who her secret admirer was, but she was also deathly afraid she would be disappointed when she did find out. If that were the case, she wouldn't even have the little bright spot she'd come to yearn for every year.
Half an hour later, despite a second glass of wine, the paper remained on the table exactly where she'd placed it. Marie started and yelped in surprise as a knock on the door pulled her out of the near trance into which she'd settled. She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands for a second, and then rose to answer the door. "What is this — Grand Central Station?" She muttered as she walked to the door.
"Hey," Jim said with a grin when she opened the door. "I can't believe I'm about to actually say this, but could I borrow a cup of sugar?" He laughed and continued, "I just want enough to cover my coffee for a couple of days until some of this mess melts off."
Marie laughed with him, glad for the distraction from her nerves. "Sure, come on in and take all you need. I stocked up before the storm hit."