I rush down the hall that leads to my apartment. My heels click against the outdoor tiles and I grab the wall, careful not to slip. I take a deep breath and release the tension. Chill, bri. Cole will be here any minute to pick me up and there’s no way I’ll be ready on time. Joke on me for trying to be early for once.
The keys rattle as I unlock the door. I’ll jump in the shower, curl my hair into waves, and wear the outfit I picked out last night. I can be ready in thirty minutes, I lie to myself when I check the time on my phone.
Dixie’s barking reminds me of my other responsibility. New plan, I let her out in the patio while I jump quickly in the shower.
I push through the door and straight for Dixie’s cage, stopping in my tracks. I tilt my head. Those flowers weren’t there this morning. I admire the red, velvety petals in the clear vase. I spy the small, white envelope leaning against it and grab it before opening the cage and letting Dixie out into the patio. Smiling, I tear open the envelope and pull out the card.
I used to think this was a silly holiday, but having you in my life I’ll take any excuse to be with you. These roses are just a preview at what I have planned for tonight. I love you, Bri. I’m a lucky bastard, and I’ll never take you and what we have for granted. I’m running outta space here, love, but know I could go on and on about how I feel.
I sigh and smile, hugging the card to me. I never thought I’d be here. A lone tear slips down my cheek. These days my tears are happy tears, and Cole is to thank for that. Spotting Dixie by the door, I let her in and walk into my room, Dixie hot on my heels.
“What the…” I grip my chest, my heart racing at the speed of light.
A quiet chuckle greets me. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Fuckin-A.” I breathe out. The chuckles get louder as the man I love walks toward me. I stare at his suit, top buttons of his dress shirt undone, and a smile that lights up the dark room.
“Hey, babe.” Cole wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me to him, his lips brushing mine. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“What are you doing here?” My arms find their way around his neck.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
I smirk. “Surprised I was. Thank you for the flowers.” I lean in and kiss him. Cole breaks away with a laugh.
“Looks like the other girl wants a little lovin’ too.” He bends down to pet Dixie, who is insistent on someone paying attention to her. After a few scratches behind her ear, she shuffles away, leaving Cole to myself again.
“You look handsome.” I run my hands over his shoulders and down the lapels of his suit.
“It’s all for you.” I stare into his blue eyes, immense love filling my heart. I’m so lucky. That thought weighs with meaning.
“I’ll be ready quickly.” I move to grab my things for the shower, but Cole pulls me close to him.
“No rush, babe. Dance with me first.”
“Don’t we have reservations at seven?”
“Don’t worry about that.” He holds a small remote before placing it back in his pocket. The opening of my song begins to play and my eyes crinkle with my smile.
“Let’s dance,” he repeats, wrapping an arm around my waist and holding my hand with his other one.
“Did you know this is my favorite song?” I look into his eyes.
“I’m glad it is. I mean every word as much today as the day I wrote it.” His lips touch mine.
“I love you, Cole Burkely.”
“Love you too, Bri.”
I move my arm tighter around the back of his neck, bringing him closer to me. Once upon not too long ago I never thought I’d find love again, but this stubborn and kind man didn’t give up on me. He granted me a second chance I never knew existed.
Swaying to the music, I listen as Cole’s soft voice sings into my ear.
We’ve got our lives to make this work
And I’m counting on forever to give you the world
Gonna give you the world, girl
Your broken pieces make me whole
So let me be the one to show
How we fit together
With the final strum of a guitar, the song ends, but we continue to move together. Silence can’t break us apart in the darkened bedroom. My head on his should as the beating of his heart moves my body.
“I canceled our reservations,” Cole speaks.
“Why?” I look up at him.
“Change of plans. Trust me,” he winks.
“But you’re all dressed up.”
“I already told you the outfit is for your enjoyment.”
“You do look sexy,” I waggle my eyebrows.
Laughing, Cole slaps my behind. “Take a shower and get ready. I’ll feed Dixie.”
With a final kiss, Cole leaves my room so I can get ready. I choose to still wear the same red dress I had picked out last night and my heels.
“You look stunning.” Cole stands from my couch and looks at me. “Beautiful,” he whispers as he runs his fingers down my arm and clasps my hand. He lifts my arm to spin me around. “You’re all mine.”
“That I am. So you like the dress?” I look down at the off-the-shoulder, form-fitting dress.
“I love it, although you look beautiful in anything.”
“You say that ‘cause you love me.”
“I say that ‘cause it’s the truth. Ready?”
I nod and follow him, deciding to leave his surprise just that, a surprise.
I squint my eyes when we pull into his driveway. His smirk tells me he has something up his sleeve, but I’m not sure why we’re coming to his place.
“Trust me,” Cole leans to me and kisses my bare shoulder. “Too bad you’re going to have to cover yourself up with a coat.”
“I’ll take it off when we’re inside,” I wink.
Out of the car, I hold his hand and walk toward the front door only to be tugged by the arm.
What did he do? I furrow my eyebrows and smile.
As we walk in to the patio I see a ton of twinkling lights hanging over his deck.
“This is beautiful,” I gasp.
“I know how much you miss having a yard.”
“Thank you, babe.”
The closer we walk to the deck, the more I see of the space. White roses mixed with peonies are placed on the table in a square vase. The flickering flames of candles are spread throughout the railing and table.
“I know it’s cold, but I’m hoping the space heaters keep you warm. If not, I have no problem holding you all night and warming you up.”
“This is perfect.” I turn to look at him. “You can keep me warm.” His thoughtfulness knows no limits. My yard was my favorite thing of my old home, and the apartment doesn’t allow for that luxury, but this is spectacular.
“I ordered dinner. Are you sure you’re okay eating out here?”
“More than okay,” I smile.
“Great. Take a seat.” He holds my chair for me. And serves two glasses of red wine. “I’ll be right back with dinner.”
While Cole is inside, I inhale the breathtaking view. The scent of roses fills my nose as the flames dance in the evening breeze.
“Here you go.” Cole places a plate in front of me.
“Mmm… That smells delicious.” I look at the dish.
“Chicken Masala with mashed potatoes.”
“You haven’t drank wine?”
“I was waiting for you.” I hold my glass up, Cole mimicking me. “To my best guy for this very special night and for all the special days.”
“Nah, tonight is all for you. You deserve it.”
I smile and sip the wine before we begin eating.
“I have a surprise for you.” Cole says as he comes back outside after clearing the table.
“Oh, a blanket.” I stand and allow him to wrap me in it. By the end of dinner, my legs were trembling but I refused to go inside. Cole takes a seat and pulls me onto his lap.
“This isn’t your surprise.” He holds a gift bag out to me.
“I thought we weren’t gifting anything,”
“Cheater,” I quip.
He shrugs. “Open it.”
I peek into the bag, the lavender tissue paper covering my gift. Removing it, I see white cotton and curiosity spikes as I pull out the soft material and open it. I chuckle as soon as I realize what it is.
“That’s for you to wear at our next concert,” Cole winks. I look at the tee shirt that reads, I’m with the drummer.
“I love it,” I lean in and kiss him.
“There’s more.” Cole juts his chin toward the bag. I look inside the gift bag again and find a small box. I hold the soft, black velvet and open the lid to find a delicate gold necklace with a small music note.
“I love it, Cole.”
“I’m glad.” He squeezes my waist. “I wanted you to have something that made you think about me.”
I cup his cheek. “I always think about you. I don’t need a necklace to remind me who you are in my life. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that you are the man I love. I know our beginning wasn’t how you would have wanted, but I’m living each day to prove to you that you are the man I want in my life.”
Visions of Josh come to mind. I’ve learned to live without him while honoring his place in my heart. I’ve also learned to live in the present, with Cole. My daybreak.
“Everything about us was perfect. I never find the right words to tell you how lucky I feel, and how blessed I am to have you in my life. To be on the receiving end of your love. You’ve given me this,” he places his hand over my heart. “That’s the best gift I could’ve ever received.”
I cuddle into him and kiss his chest. “Who knows where I’d be right now without you.” I keep my chin on his chest and look into his eyes. “Thank you. Thank you for tonight and for being the man you are.”
Cole tightens his arms around me and hums with the twinkling lights and the warm blanket now covering the both of us. I inhale the man who loves me wholeheartedly and thank the stars above for bringing him into my life.
*Copyright 2018, Fabiola Francisco
Purchase Love You Through It