Laura sat up in bed, as Leo handed her a large, squishy parcel. Somewhat hesitantly, she began to tear open the shiny paper emblazoned with hearts.
“I’ve been so excited about this!” Leo sat on the edge of the bed. “It was supposed to keep ‘til later, but I just couldn’t wait to see your face!”
Last year it had been a hand-held vacuum which lay beneath the wrappings and ribbon. Worryingly, according to Leo it suited her so well!
Laura held up this year’s offering and again faked a smile.
“Wow. I love it. How did you know this was just what I needed?” She buried her head into his not-so-strong-anymore chest.
“Well, according to anniversary tradition, the gift for the seventh year of marriage involves wool. I hope I got your size right, but I really thought the colour would suit you.”
He was so sweet! Sure enough, the jumper was royal blue, almost the colour of her eyes. It was just all the baubles on the front which worried Laura a little.
“I was kind of hoping you could wear it tonight.” Leo smiled, shyly.
Of course! How could she forget the annual trip?
“I’ve booked ‘our place’ again. Tonight at seven.” Leo winked, proud of his little ‘surprise’.
“I can guarantee that your ‘vision in blue’ will accompany you.” She planted a kiss on his cheek, and climbed out of bed.
‘Our Place’ was the little student hang-out where Laura and Leo had first met. Back then, Leo was a popular Bible College student who could be spotted in a crowded room, by his thick, auburn hair and infectious laugh. Well, at least he still had that infectious laugh.
“Any idea what you’ll have this time?” Leo asked as he drove slowly.
“Hmm…” Laura pondered. “I’ll wait and see.” She wriggled around awkwardly in the passenger seat, trying to avoid the irritating itch that was creeping all over her skin beneath the fuzzy blue jumper.
“Good old Simonie’s, eh?” Leo laughed. “You can’t beat it. Cheap and cheerful! I might go for the Chicken Maryland again, myself…”
Laura listened half-heartedly to Leo’s vocal indecisiveness. Fighting the major temptation to scratch, she pulled back the sleeve of the blue jumper. She gawped in horror as she studied the bumpy rash now making its way up her arms.
“…now someone once said that they did very good salmon. I think it could have been Doug…”
Leo wondered why his wife was so unresponsive these days. He remembered back to all the nights when they used to sit and talk into the early hours of the morning. Laura even appeared to be uncomfortable with his presence right now. She was just sitting there and…… itching?
“You alright, honey?” He glanced over curiously. The red, raised blotches on Laura’s neck and arms, almost made him swerve.
“I think so.” Laura again forced a smile, hiding the urge to sandpaper every inch of her torso.
“Well I don’t.” Leo looked more alarmed than ever. He knew his wife better than she thought. “That rash is very raised. It looks like an allergic reaction.”
“I’m fine really.” Laura winced. What else could she do except grin and bear it?
Leo thought for some time. It had been such a long time since he had been so quiet.
“I’m taking you to the out of hours surgery.” he finally decided.
The couple sat in silence in the empty waiting room. Eventually, it was Laura who broke the tense atmosphere, by beginning to giggle.
“If I didn’t laugh, I think I’d cry.” She began to laugh out loud.
Leo started see the funny side as usual. “Well, at least it’s a change of scenery. I hate to admit it, but I was getting so fed up with going to Simonie’s year after year.”
Laura stopped laughing. “Then why on earth have you been inviting me there for the past seven years?”
“Well, I figured it was your favourite place.”
Tears now began to well in Laura’s eyes, as she threw her red-raw arms around the wonderful man she had married.
“Oh, Leo. What would I do without you?” She wouldn’t replace him for the world.
Half an hour, and a bottle of chamomile lotion later, the couple emerged from the surgery arm in arm.
As for the blue jumper, Laura exchanged it for a ‘little black dress’, which she wore to their candlelit dinner at The Ritz the following week.
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