She gently caressed the frayed edges of the faded construction paper. Timidly she separated the edges and opened the memento. The waxy crayon scribbles had fused together. Fearful of tearing it, she eased an index finger along the lettering to pry open the deteriorating treasure.
Finally the stubborn wax released its hold on the paper and relaxed into a fully opened sheet. She stared blankly at the card’s interior. Her eyes moistened at the memory.
She was five. He was six. She was the new kid on the base; he the experienced veteran by six weeks. A war, being fought thousands of miles away had brought them together. Their dads were part of a cracker-jack flight team.
They never saw their dads. Their moms talked little. School was boring, but the endless miles of airstrip and military roadways had birthed endless adventures.
He liked her spunk. She was practically one of the guys. He’d dared her once to pick up a live frog. She upped the bet, dared him to eat a grasshopper. Before long both were covered in scrapped kneecaps, skinned elbows and legs lacerated from stickers and briar branches. Medals of Honor worn with pride!
For Christmas they had been given bikes; two wheelers with training wheels. The competition commenced – who would learn to ride first. In a week the training wheels had been removed. Next it was freehand – who could ride without holding the handlebars. A month later they were performing all kinds of daredevil stuns on their trusty spiked steeds.
Winters weren’t cold in Florida. Most days a sweater was warm enough. Occasionally a light frost kissed the ground, but it was never enough to ground the flight planes of the two. As soon as their homework was completed, they were off and running.
Although the winter meant early sunsets, they both could sense spring was just around the corner. It wouldn’t be long before daylight outlasted the moon and lighting streetlamps were no longer the manager of their curfews.
Lately he had been acting strangely. He wouldn’t talk to her at school. Instead of rallying her for grand escapade, he mocked and insulted her at every recess.
“What’s wrong, momma,” she muttered between sniffling tears.
“Nothing’s wrong, honey,” her mom comforted her. “You know how boys are.”
“No, I don’t” she perked up adamantly. “I don’t understand why he has to be so mean. I didn’t do anything to him or his friends!”
“Oh…” nodded her mother with an acknowledged understanding her voice. “Been teasing you and picking on you in front of his friends?”
“Yeah, momma,” she said straightening.
“Baby, girl, that’s natural,” she comforted, her arms enveloping her daughter. “His friends probably picked on him. They probably teased him about having a girlfriend. He’s just defending his honor. Give him some space. It’ll be okay after a while.”
A week later a piece of red construction paper had been slipped under her front door. It was a Valentine! Her first! She was so excited she skipped, danced, twirled and ran to the kitchen to show her mom.
“Look! Look!” she squealed with delight.
“Calm down,” her mom said wiping her hands on the apron.
“Isn’t it just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”
Together the two unfolded the handmade card and read its contents.
“To my favorite girls! Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad.”
Tears quickly gathered in her mom’s eyes. Where could the card have come from? How did it arrive?
Now, looking down at the weathered card, she traced the lettering once again. Bringing it to her lips, she kissed and placed it in the coffin next to the second greatest love of her life.
Leaning over she kissed the aged face of her husband one last time. How had her dad known all those years ago that the silly little boy would become the love of her life? How could he had known that military brat could be trusted for such a delicate top secret mission…to deliver one handmade Valentine card for him while he was stationed overseas that year?
Tears glided down her cheeks. She smiled and thought, he did…he just did.
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