“Morning Paula, how are you?”
“I’m good Jamie, how you doing this morning?”
“Okay, I’ve had worse days.” I replied with a shrug
“I’m sure you have.” She nodded, looking at me sadly.
I hated that look; pity was what I relied on from the people who donated to my cause. I wanted Paula to see me differently.
“Well any day I see you can’t be a bad day now can it?” I gave her a wink.
Paula laughed and flashed the smile I had been living for lately.
“You are smooth Jamie, you should teach classes.”
I shrugged and didn’t reply right away. I was content to just look at her. As always her hair was up and she was bundled up tight. I did notice that her usual black scarf had been replaced with a bright red one.
“So who said it’s a line?” I asked to keep her smiling or to keep up my lame attempt at flirting, either way it worked as she laughed again.
“Oh, please, I have kids your age and I doubt I’m one of those…” She thought a moment. “Mifs?”
“Milfs.” I corrected her, laughing.
“Oh yeah that’s right.” she nodded. “Not one of those.”
“Yeah you’re right,” I made a show of looking closely at her. “I was thinking more like a cougar.”
“Good thing I wore my boots today.” Paula said, rolling her eyes.
Reaching down next to her she handed me a Dunkin Donuts coffee.
“Here you go hon, it’s really cold out here.”
I took the coffee and holding up the cup, turned it around in my hand, last week she had taped a five dollar bill to the side of it. I didn’t see anything, which was fine by me.
“Thank you Paula.” I told her. “Hey, I like that scarf, is that for Valentine’s Day?”
“It is as a matter of fact.” Paula said with a shrug. “Probably all I’ll do to celebrate the day, but hey it’s something right?”
I nodded, thrilled that my little segue had worked. I was reaching into my sweatshirt for the rose, when Paula surprised me first by reaching out and handing me a small heart shaped box of chocolates.
“Speaking of, happy Valentine’s Day Jamie.”
I took the box from her and stared at it for a minute. I felt a lump rise in my throat; I couldn’t believe she had thought of me.
“Thank you Paula,” I said quietly.
“No worries, “she winked at me. “Just some sweets for a real sweetheart.” She laughed. “I know that’s not as good as one of your lines, but I’m pretty rusty.”
“Well, this makes me feel even better that I did this then.”
Pulling out the rose, I handed it to her. “Happy Valentine’s Paula.”
If I’d had any doubt that she would enjoy the rose, it was erased by the look on her face. Her all ready big brown eyes widened, and as she took it, she swallowed hard, and I recognized that she felt the same why I did.
“Oh Jamie, thank you.” She whispered. “This is…” she shook her head. “So beautiful.”
“Well I don’t know about that,” I said, after all it came from Cumberland farms. “But you said purple was your favorite.”
“Twenty years of marriage and my ex thought my favorite color was blue.” She said softly, more to herself then to me, then shaking her head said, “I say it once to you and you remember.”
Reaching out, she took my hand in hers and flashing me her trademark smile said, “Thank you, you don’t know how much this means to me.”
“Well you taking me to see aunty meant a lot to me,” I said then reaching back into my shirt gave her the card. “Here, this is for you too.”
“Jamie, this is too much…”
“Nah, it’s only a card.” I told her, but was thrilled with the look in her eyes as she held it.
“Yeah but, a few dollars is a lot for you ! I mean….” She sighed. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“I don’t have to do anything, remember?” I asked.
Paula looked at the red envelope and then again at the rose. Putting the card down, she reached out, put her arm around my shoulder and tugged me towards her. Caught off guard, I felt like an idiot as I all but fell against her car. That feeling quickly faded as she wrapped her arm around my neck and hugged me. My face was buried in her neck and between the scent of her perfume and the sensation of her soft hair against my cheek I felt as if I were in heaven.
I frowned at the thought that I was pretty sure I didn’t smell anywhere near as nice, and my own hair probably felt kind of nasty.
Again thoughts were pushed away by the thrill of her lips grazing my cheek. Still hugging me she whispered in my ear, “You made my day Jamie, you really did.”
“You make mine all the time.” I told her quietly, and risking it, gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
“Hey lady! Make sure he showers first!” a voice called out, ruining the moment.
I pulled away, looking angrily in the direction of the voice, but the light was green and the cars were whipping past.
“Ignore them,” Paula said quietly. “They’re just jerks.”
She looked at her watch and sighed.
“I’m sorry Jamie, but I have to go. I’ll look at the card later okay?”
“No problem,” I told her. Part of me was relieved, I would rather she read it without me in front of her, just in case I had gone too far with what I had written. “You have a good day,” I winked at her. “And don’t do anything wild tonight.”
“Oh, please.” She laughed. “Wild for me these days would be using my left hand.”
“I…” I stopped speechless, trying to fight off the visual that remark conjured up. I could my face getting hot and Paula laughed.
“I got you to blush! How cute are you?”
“Cute,” I managed to get out. “Yeah that’s me.”
“Sorry, Jamie, but you’re so nice all the time I couldn’t resist.”
“Glad I could get you to laugh.” I said rolling my eyes.
“You always do.” She said, and then turning serious added. “You go get warm soon okay?”
“And thank you again Jamie, this was very thoughtful.”
I simply nodded and smiled, as she pulled away she called out, “Enjoy the candy.”
Looking down at the box in my hand, I shrugged and untying the ribbon, opened it to grab a chocolate. When I removed the lid I laughed. There was a ten dollar bill folded on top of the candy.