The small group of young women were sitting around the table in the company lunch room chatting, an everyday occurrence. An observer would see them laughing and talking, enjoying the time before they returned to their respective desks, in their various departments.
Alice, a slim redhead in her mid-twenties, turned to the woman directly across from her, and asked,
"Lea, do you and Hank have anything planned for Valentine's Day?"
Lea face lit up with a smile before replying.
"I don't know. Hank told me that he was going to surprise me," she told the group.
"Any idea what it might be?" queried Bev, the H.R. manager's secretary, just a couple of years out of high school.
Lea looked thoughtful for a moment.
"I don't know. Maybe some jewelry. I guess Hank could have arranged a weekend for us somewhere. I wonder if he might be planning on taking me to that chic new French restaurant, Maison Canard?" Lea speculated.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure that I'll love it. Hank is so thoughtful and good to me," she concluded.
Alice asked Lea a second question,
"And what about Bob? Are you going to do anything with your Rugby stud-muffin?" She giggled as she finished.
"Shush!" Lea hissed, "Not so loud. No one outside this group knows about Bob, and I'd like to keep it that way."
Helen, the oldest woman at the table, still in her early thirties, clearly found the discussion distasteful. She was privy to Lea's affair with her old high-school boyfriend. Although she felt obliged to keep Lea's affair in confidence, she disapproved of it and of the awkward position that it put her in. She would, on the other hand, never lie about it, if asked. The expression on her face was very unhappy.
"Lea, what you should be doing for Hank for Valentine's Day, is stopping this foolishness with Bob. Bob was an idiot when he was in high school, nothing more than a dumb jock; and he hasn't improved," Helen scolded. "Hank deserves better from you than what you are doing."
"Oh Helen," Alice interrupted, "Bob is eye-candy. He has muscles on muscles, and is a better lover than Hank. Isn't that true, Lea?"
"Well, not really, Alice. Hank is a great lover, and a wonderful man. He'll be a great father, when the time comes," Lea explained.
"Then why do you bother with Bob?" Helen asked, truly curious at this point.
"He's just wild sex. When I'm with Hank, he makes 'love' to me, and it's really good. But Bob is great, hard and fast sex. Hank is the kind of man you marry, Bob is just an oversized, under IQ'd sex toy!" Lea laughed.
"What is Bob doing — I mean professionally. I know he spends the weekends playing Rugby, when he isn't, well, you know, with you. Did he ever finish college?"
"No, he dropped out. School was never his thing. He's been working at Bill Evans Electronics, selling computers and big-screen TVs and that kind of stuff," Lea explained.
The woman at the table got up to go back to work. Helen stood there for a minute, frowning, looking at Lea. Then she shook her head and followed behind her, back to the accounting department, where the two of them worked.
It was almost two-o'clock when Alice, who was the company receptionist and gatekeeper at the front entrance, called Lea.
"Lea," she excitedly told her friend, "There is a delivery man here. I think that he has a Valentine's Day gift for you."
"Oh, yummy!" was Lea's reply, the excitement of a romantic gift arriving at work elating her. "Send him back."
Lea turned and spoke to Helen in the cubicle across the aisle that separated the Account's Payable and Account's Receivable departments.
"Helen," she spoke in a whisper loud enough to be heard, "There's a delivery man here with some sort of Valentine's gift!"
"Oooo ... how exciting!" Helen joined in, Lea's happiness catching on. Helen had never married; she had been too focused on her career. She was a little envious of Lea and her marriage to Hank, but found her friend's euphoria infectious. She found herself smiling, and excited to see this mysterious gift.
They looked up simultaneously to see the brown-clad delivery man walking into the accounting department through the door on the other side of the room, looking for his deliveree. He was holding something in his arm, but neither Helen nor Lea could see it due to the partitions between the cubicles.
He looked out over the room, and called out, not too loudly, but with enough volume to be heard,
Lea raised her hand high enough for the man to see and waved. The movement caught his eye, and he smiled and began to wind his way through the room to Lea's cubicle.
By the time that the delivery man arrived at the juncture of Helen and Lea's office, their two other lunch companions, Alice and Bev, had arrived to take in the event as well. They were all slightly giggly, grinning, excited, and moving in that animated way that is most often seen in small children anticipating Santa Claus.
When the smiling man rounded the last turn, all of the women could see that he held one of those gift Teddy Bears in his hand. And it held a little sign in its hand. As he got closer, they could see that the Teddy Bear was dressed in some sort of athletic uniform.
He finally stood in front of Lea's cubicle, and held the Teddy Bear for her to see. It said, "Bob, The Rugby Player." It was even dressed in Bob's rugby team colors.
Bev and Alice looked at the sign, and put their hands over their mouths as they began to titter. Helen looked slightly shocked. Lea looked horrified.
"Oh, it's so adorable!" whispered Bev. She was bouncing up and down in place, she was so hyper.
"I wish that MY boyfriend would get me something like this," exclaimed Alice, although it earned her a dirty look from Lea, for whom the existence of her boyfriend was supposed to be kept secret.
"Oh my God. I never expected that Bob would do something like this," Lea gasped, with a worried look in Helen's direction.
Helen had a grim look on her face when she responded, almost under her breath,
"And you should tell him not to do it again. Ever!" She was palpably angry.
The delivery man was still standing there as the women reacted in their varying ways. He finally spoke,
"I have a message to read, that goes along with this Teddy Bear," he said, still with the same smile on his face.
"Dear Lea," he began, reading the letter out loud, for everyone to hear.
"Now you can have TWO rugby players in your heart — this Teddy Bear and your full sized one," he continued.
"But all good things come with a cost — and this Teddy Bear is no exception. Only you can decide whether this Valentine's Day gift was worth it.
As part of this surprise, you should know that your credit cards have been cancelled, you are no longer covered under my insurance, and you've been removed from my will. Over the past week, I moved half of our savings and checking accounts to another bank into my new accounts. I stopped depositing my checks into the joint account two-months ago.