It was the end of another long day at work as Roger wearily climbed into the car and turned the key. The engine fired right up, the defroster threw a blast of air onto the windshield that bounced off and into his face and the radio began to squawk.
"Another Valentine's Day, as lovers everywhere give it their best efforts to impress that special someone in their life," the DJ said. "Fancy dinners, big bouquets of roses, beautiful jewelry and, of course, that pretty card filled with romantic sentiments you could never write on your own. So my question to listeners out there is what have you done for your special person?"
As the words sunk in, Roger's head dropped — his chin hitting his chest as his eyes squeezed shut.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he said. "It's six o'clock on Valentine's Day and I haven't done a fucking thing. Diane is going to kill me."
So his mind began to work through the list he had just heard. Fancy dinners — he could do that. So Roger went back inside and took the elevator up to his office. Flipping open his rolodex he started calling restaurants.
"Sorry sir, but we are booked solid for the evening," the voices all seemed to tell him. "This IS Valentine's Day sir. We've been booked for well over a week."
After almost a dozen calls telling him the same thing, Roger hung up the phone and just screamed. He was sure people were probably looking at him strangely after that — and they probably would have been if there was anyone left in the office.
This had always been Roger's weak spot. He was great at dealing with the big picture, charting out the major plans. The skill had made him a lot of money in the business world, as he had a knack for seeing how things would come together and land multi-million dollar deals based on things no one else seemed to be able to see.
But it was the details that always seemed to kill him. He always seemed to forget birthdays and anniversaries. He did his Christmas shopping every year on Christmas Eve afternoon. He even knew which specialty stores stayed open late, as he had often had to stop and pick up things like a nice bottle of wine or some kind of housewarming gift on his way to a party at around eight or nine at night after Diane had elbowed him in the ribs for forgetting again.
Here he was again. No gift, no plans and not even a card. This time though, it looked like he was fucked ... and he knew it. More importantly, he knew that if he didn't figure something out, and do it quickly, it was going to be a very, very long time before he actually did get fucked again.
Back to the rolodex, this time trying florists. Roses and a card might be enough to save his ass — at least that was what he was hoping.
Unfortunately, he fared no better than he had with restaurants. By this time, most florists were already closed for the day and the few that were left were not only out of roses, but almost every kind of flower he could remember that she liked.
"Fuck!" he screamed into the darkness, literally pounding his fists down on to his desk. "Why can't anything fucking work out?"
Making matters worse, as he pounded his fists down that final time he got a glance of the clock. It was already a quarter after seven. He should have been home over an hour ago, had at least a 30 minute drive to get home and he was still empty handed.
For some reason, Roger decided to turn the radio back on. They were talking about what people were doing to celebrate Valentine's Day and maybe they could give him an idea. If they didn't, he was figuring he might as well just start making plans to sleep on the couch in the corner of the office and start waiting for the divorce papers to be delivered.
The first calls were people just getting ready to head out to their dinner reservations — one caller saying he had made his reservations over a month earlier. That just seemed to rub salt into Rogers wounds.
Feeling defeated, he figured he at least needed to give Diane a call and let her know he was still at the office. He didn't need her worried. Besides, worry would be just one more flaming branch on the fiery fury he was expecting his empty-handed arrival would bring.
Diane answered the phone after just one ring. Great, she's sitting there waiting for me. Now I'm in big trouble.
"Hi sweetheart," Roger said, trying to put his best face forward. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm just finishing up at the office. I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, but I was busy and just realized what time it was and wanted to let you know I was OK."
"Don't worry about it dear," Diane told him. Then she almost started to laugh as she continued, "Honestly, I was just figuring you were going crazy trying to figure out a last minute Valentine's Day present for me. I mean, usually you forget these kinds of things."
"Nope," he said. "I've got your present right here and you are going to be surprised."
In the back of his mind, Roger was telling himself, "I'm going to be pretty surprised too."
"Well, hurry home," Diane said. "Dinner is just about ready and I want you to be able to open the gift I have for you too.
"Love you dear and see you soon."
With that, the phone clicked dead.
Roger's heart sunk. Now he had to come up with something and he had to do it fast.
The radio almost seemed to answer Roger's prayer though, as one caller started talking about how his Valentine's Day gift was fulfilling a wish his wife had always had to see Yellowstone Park. He was presenting her with the paperwork showing their reservations at the park lodge, maps of the route they would take to drive there and gift certificates good for a helicopter tour of the park.
Roger responded by turning on his computer and quickly pulled up Expedia. com and began to look at last minute travel options. This was a Thursday night, so he figured he could find a last-minute deal that would have them leave Friday evening and get back Sunday night or early Monday morning. No one would have to miss work and he would look like he'd been planning things for months.
It didn't take long before he found it. She had always wanted to return to Paris, making her first trip years ago when she was still in high school as part of a foreign language class. They could fly out Friday afternoon at about 5 p.m., be in Paris at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. Then they would fly back on Monday morning, arriving back home about 10 a.m. — giving them the option of taking the day off or just coming in late and working a half day.
Better yet, Expedia offered him several options for tours, dinner packages, Seine River cruises. So he clicked on boxes, giving them a Saturday night dinner at the Eiffel Tower, followed by cocktails and a show at the famed Moulin Rouge. Sunday would have a bus tour out to Versailles. That would still leave plenty of time each day to see different things like the Louvre or even Euro Disney if that was what tripped her trigger.
Yes, when all was said and done, this was going to cost him almost three grand in airfare, two nights at a nice hotel, a private car to and from the airport and all the tours and meals he had purchased. But on the other hand, after he finished typing in his credit card number, he was going to have the perfect gift that all he had to do was print out and put into an envelope.
The smile didn't stay on his face for long. At least, not after the message came back from Expedia... "We are sorry, but your credit card processing was declined. Please select another payment option."
He tried the card again and again and again. After five tries he finally gave up. Now he really was fucked ... and he knew it.
So Roger did the only thing he could. He shut down the computer, put his things back into his briefcase, went back out to the car and started his drive home. He did get a little hope when he passed someone selling flowers on an overpass as he drove home and he didn't think twice about shelling out the fifty bucks for a less-than-stellar bunch of red roses. At least he wouldn't be empty handed now.
As he walked in the door, he called out his usual, "Hi honey, I'm home."
The response took him a little off guard when Diane said, "Hi honey ... I'm in here." The voice came from the dining room. It took him even more off guard when he walked into the dining room.
.... There is more of this story ...