Holly looked at all the white baker’s bags hanging from the chalkboard at the front of the classroom. As usual, the bags belonging to the popular girls bulged and overflowed, straining to contain all the paper Valentine cards within. Holly was not one of the popular girls. Her bag dangled limply from its place, the buff cocker spaniel she had drawn on the front staring back at her with big, sad eyes.
“Class, if your math assignment is complete you may come get your Valentine bag.” Miss Cochrane scurried to avoid the stampede of children rushing for the front of the room.
Holly shuffled toward her bag and tried to look nonchalant, as if she hadn’t the slightest interest in what rested in the bottom of the white sack. It felt light as air when she unfastened it from the chalk tray and she forced herself not to look inside until she had gotten back to her desk.
Around her, the giggling popular girls struggled to keep their towering mounds of Valentines from floating to the floor. Holly’s heart reluctantly filled with envy as she watched them. She wondered what it was like to have perfect hair and a bag stuffed full of Valentines. She looked down at her own white bag, its paltry contents mocking her.
One by one, she opened her cards and read the messages scrawled within. There was one from her teacher and a couple from two of the other quieter girls in the class. Holly peered into the bag and saw one more card resting on the bottom, like a pearl nestled on its oyster pillow.
The cocker spaniel on the baker’s bag watched her trembling fingers unfold the pink paper and gasp in surprise.
Do you like me? Circle one:
Yes or No
Love, Brian F.
A blush redder than a heart-shaped box of chocolates crawled all the way up to her hairline as she looked across the room at Brian Foster. He looked back at her hopefully. Holly smiled, gave him a little wave and nodded ever so slightly.
Fifteen years later, Holly looked at the familiar writing on the crinkled pink paper and grinned. She wondered if Brian remembered writing that question so many years ago. She wondered if he thought about the note when they went to the homecoming dance in tenth grade, slow danced at the prom together their senior year or drove home from college together for the holidays. Well, she would make sure he remembered this year.
This would be their first Valentine’s Day together since she had moved back to their hometown from veterinary school last spring. Their first Valentine’s Day as a serious couple. Brian’s note from fifth grade would be the ideal gift.
Holly folded the pink paper back into its original shape, carefully placed it in a tiny box and tied it with glossy pink ribbon. Perfect. The doorbell rang and Holly’s stomach fluttered with anticipation.
“Brian! Happy Valentine’s Day.” Holly ushered Brian inside and tried to ignore the feeling of letdown when she saw his empty, flowerless hands.
I’m making too big of a deal out of this whole Valentine’s Day thing. Holly chastised herself and wished she hadn’t resurrected the fifth grade card. But it was too late. Brian was already tearing open the box.
For a moment, he just stared at the note and didn’t say a word. Then, a lone tear slid down his cheek.
“Oh, Holly.” He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her sweet-smelling hair.
“Do you remember that note?” Holly whispered in his ear.
“Of course, sweetheart! Did you think I would ever forget?”
Brian slowly released her, his eyes glittering. “Get ready for your gift now.”
He disappeared outside and returned a moment later, struggling with an awkward white box sporting a red satin bow. The package seemed to have a life of its own. Holly lifted the lid and an adorable doe-eyed cocker spaniel puppy looked up at her from the box.
When she lifted the puppy to cradle it in her arms, Holly noticed the pink scroll tied to its collar. She unrolled the spool and felt as though she were back in Miss Cochrane’s classroom when she saw the familiar handwriting:
Will you marry me? Circle one:
Yes or No
Love, Brian F.
Holly threw her arms around Brian and the puppy yipped and pranced in tiny circles at their feet. It was the perfect Valentine’s Day.
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