Rog got up early before his shift at the hospital and worked quickly to place items around the house. Long stem roses on the dining room table. Cards with sappy love poems. And a note left upon his pillow with a single lily. That one, however, was the last one placed before he hurried out of the bedroom, knowing its sweet aroma would wake her.
Six o’clock AM. His shift was beginning in less than an hour and he heard the kids upstairs in the shower. Not much time, he thought. I need to get out of here! He grabbed his car keys and locked the house door behind him.
Upstairs, Bella’s alarm clock was chiming. Sleepily, she pressed a button on the clock and the chiming ceased. In the next room, Chris and Charlotte were chattering but their speech was unintelligible. She noticed Rog had already left, but in his place was a single white lily and a note in an envelope, his familiar handwriting bore her name: “Bella, my love.” She opened the envelope carefully and read the note within:
On this day twenty years ago, you made me the happiest man in the world by marrying me. Our life together has been more than enough. I love you more than I can express.
Happy Anniversary, my darling.
All my love, Rog
“Oh no!” she said out loud to no one at all. “I forgot!” She kicked the covers off and stood straight up. Quickly, she put his comfy robe on and headed downstairs to make breakfast for Chris and Charlotte, who were bickering about who knows what. As she hit the bottom step she noticed the roses on the table. Her heart melted but a wave of guilt swept over her.
“Eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, baking powder, butter, and bananas,” she muttered as she gathered the ingredients to make banana pancakes. By the mixer was a card with her name on it. Wiping her hands on a towel, she opened the card.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Words can never tell you,
How much I love you.
Dreaming of you,
Smiling and feeling even guiltier, she continued mixing the batter. The griddle was hot, and she poured the first cake as Charlotte arrived in the dining room.
“What are the flowers for?” she asked.
“Today is our wedding anniversary, Charli.” Bella wiped the counter nervously. “And I forgot!”
“Oooh!” Charlotte taunted. “You’re in trouble!”
“Well, I have all day to remedy it and I have some ideas myself.” Bella flipped the cakes over. They were a perfect golden brown.
“Mmm, that smells good Mama,” Chris announced as he descended the steps. “Flowers?” he asked as he walked toward the table.
“Mama forgot their anniversary, Chris,” Charlotte teased and they both giggled.
“Okay, you’ve had enough fun at my expense.” Bella laughed and served up the first four cakes. Working quickly she poured another four into the hot griddle. “Come eat, guys.”
After the children had left for school and she had finished cleaning the kitchen, she went upstairs to shower. On the vanity sat another card.
Thoughts of you surround me
You’re the beating of my heart
The love you give defines me
My life is no longer dark.¹
All my affection,
She wiped tears of joy from her eyes as she undressed. As she stepped into the shower she cried openly, still not comprehending the love she had for her husband. When she was done, she wrapped her hair in a towel and made her way to the bedroom to get dressed.
She walked past by the dining room table and noticed the card attached to the flowers. Trembling, she reached for it to open it.
The passion between us is strong
Ferocious to those that see
The feelings that are shared between us
My love for you and yours for me.²
I’m Forever Yours,
She shook her head. “I don’t deserve this man,” she said to the butler, Gilbert, as he appeared in the foyer after retrieving the morning paper.
“I noticed, Mrs. St John,” he said, pointing toward the flowers. “He must love you immensely.” Gilbert set the paper on the counter and began gathering laundry.
“That he does, Gilbert.” She took her keys from their hook. “I’m heading into town for a bit. I’ll be home soon.”
When she reached the garage, she stopped in her tracks. Her car was bursting at the seams with red balloons. Laughing, she opened the car door, and they began escaping, filling the garage. I hope Gilbert doesn’t clean this up, she thought.
Her first stop was the jewelry store. The clerk greeted her. “How can I help you today?”
“I’m looking for a ring for my husband,” Bella told her. “Something with diamonds and sapphires, our birthstones.”
“I think I might have just the ring,” she told Bella. “This way.”
Bella approached the case and saw the ring of which she spoke. It was breathtaking, a diamond solitaire in the middle, surrounded by blue sapphires and smaller diamonds. It sparkled like the sun. “It is beautiful,” she remarked.
The clerk opened the case and handed the ring to her. “Here, you can have a closer look.” Gingerly, Bella took the ring and slid it onto her own finger. It was way too big for her, but she knew that Rog’s ring finger was just a bit bigger than her thumb.
“This is how I can tell if it will fit him,” she explained, sliding the ring onto her thumb. It fit her exactly how his wedding band did. “This will be perfect! I’ll take it!”
The clerk looked surprised. Bella never even asked the price. “Are you sure, Ma’am? It’s over §3,000.”
“That isn’t a problem,” she replied. Bella happily paid the clerk and took the ring. “Thank you so much!” She said as she pushed the door open.
“Thank you! Come again!” the clerk waved.
As she got into her car, her phone chimed. It was Rog’s message tone. Smiling, she retrieved the phone from her bag and read the message:
Bella my love, I have a surprise for you. Meet me tonight at The Tower for dinner at 6 pm. A car will pick you up at 5:30. Waiting for you, Rog
The Tower, she thought. That place is exclusive! There was no way either of them had the connections to get a table there. She knew he had to have pulled some strings to manage the reservation. The guilty feeling crept in again. The ring, though it was beautiful, could never compete with all he had done to prepare for this night. She tapped her phone and the keyboard appeared.
My sweet Rogelio, I would be honored to meet you. However, I have a confession to make. I forgot about our anniversary. I hope you can forgive me. You have my heart, Bella
She sighed deeply. As she set the phone down it chimed again. Rog.
Darling Bella, There is nothing to forgive. I cannot wait to see you tonight. Wear something irresistible. Desiring you, Rog
Instead of shopping for any more gifts for him, she decided to go to the salon instead. She got a makeover, her hair trimmed, makeup done, and a brand new, slinky black dress with stiletto-heeled shoes. The boutique owner lavished compliments on Bella as she emerged from the dressing room wearing it. “Your husband won’t be able to keep his hands off you in that,” she said.
“He already can’t!” Bella laughed. “But that is exactly the reaction I am going for.”
She looked at her watch. Three-thirty. The kids would be home from school and it wasn’t like her to be gone when they got home. She didn’t worry, though. They were old enough to care for themselves and responsible enough to do homework without being told.
She walked into the house, bags in her hands and Charlotte giggled. “Did you get guilty presents for Daddy?”
“Just one,” Bella replied. “Come here and see.” She opened her bag and showed the ring. Their eyes widened and Chris touched the stones.
“Holy cow Mom,” he exclaimed. “How much did this set you back?”
“Your college fund,” Bella teased. Both kids laughed. “Your dad is sending a car for me at 5:30, so I need to be ready. Please don’t make me late.”
“We’ll stay out of your way, Mama,” Charlotte told her. “But if you want some help, I’ll be here.”
“Well, that’s kind of you, honey,” Bella said.
“You look beautiful, Mama,” Chris said to her. “Your hair looks amazing.”
Bella blushed. “Thank you, son.”
She lugged her packages upstairs and plopped them on the bed. She took the black dress and hung it on the door on a clothes hanger and placed the shoes on the bed. She took her time getting dressed and touching up her hair and makeup. She went back downstairs at 5 o’clock, her dressed unzipped. She needed Charlotte to help her.
“Sweetheart, could you get this zipper for me?” Chris’s mouth dropped open.
“Wow, Mama,” he exclaimed. “Daddy is going to freak when he sees you.” Bella blushed.
“Here, I’ve got it,” Charlotte answered, zipping the form-fitting dress. “You look so beautiful, Mama.”
“Thank you, sweetie.” Bella gave one last look in the mirror, checking her makeup. “Is it chilly outside?”
“Yeah, a bit,” said Chris.
Outside, the honk of a horn sounded. The car had arrived to pick Bella up. She grabbed a shawl and her bag. “I don’t know what time we’ll be home. You have my number, and Gilbert is here if you need him. Be good!” The kids waved to her as she walked to the limousine.
The limo arrived at The Tower a few minutes before six. The driver assisted her out of the car and accompanied her into the restaurant, past the crowds that lined up hoping for the chance to be seated.
“Mrs. St John, sir.” he announced to the Maître D’.
“Right this way, Miss.” He led Bella to where Rog was sitting. He stood when he saw her approach and his eyes lit up.
“Thank you,” Rog told the Maître D’. He looked at Bella as though it was the first time. “Wow, darling,” he told her. “That dress, your hair…” he swallowed hard. “You certainly met the ‘irresistible’ requirement.”
“That’s what I was going for,” she replied.
He held the chair for her as she sat and helped her move closer to the table. The waiter brought a bottle of champagne and a platter of strawberries. Two candles illuminated the table and a vase of lilies scented the air. Nearby, a roaming violinist went table to table serenading and taking requests. Figuring she’d never get another chance to be there, Bella sat and soaked in the atmosphere, enjoying every second. Rog could not take his eyes from her.
“Is everything okay, Rog?” she asked, noticing his admiration. “You’re quiet.”
“Your beauty has rendered me speechless,” he answered. “I never expected this.”
She smiled and took his hand. “I have a surprise for you, but it’s nothing like what you’ve done today.”
“Oh, not true,” he replied. “You win today hands down.”
“Well, this has been killing me so I want to give you your gift.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a small box tied with a bow. She offered it to him, and he accepted it.
“I have a gift for you, too,” he said, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a similar-looking box. He offered the box to her, and she accepted it.
“Open yours first, Rog,” she suggested excitedly. He agreed, so he untied the bow and opened the box.
“Oh Bella,” he stammered. “This is exquisite.” He took the ring from its box and put it on his finger. A perfect fit. “How did you know this would fit?”
She smiled slyly. “I have my ways.”
He admired the ring. “This is just incredible! Our birthstones! So perfect, I love it, darling. Thank you so much!” He took her hand and squeezed it. “Now, it’s your turn!”
She picked up the box and opened it. Inside was a diamond anniversary band, two diamonds in the middle and 20 more set in a channel, 10 on each side. She set the box on the table and covered her face, trying to hide her emotion.
“Bella?” he asked. “Is everything okay?”
She dabbed her eyes with a tissue and took a deep breath. “Rog, that ring, it is so extravagant! Oh my goodness,” she was fumbling for words trying to find the right ones, but every thought escaped her mind. “I’m speechless!” She stood up, and he did, too. They met in the middle in a tender embrace and they kissed. She laid her head on his shoulder as they remained close. “Thank you,” she whispered. He kissed her again.
“You’re welcome, my darling!”
They sat down together, and he reached for the box he had given her and removed the ring. Holding her hand, he slid the ring onto her finger in front of her wedding band. “Bella, I would absolutely marry you all over again. I couldn’t live without you.”
Her heart was filled to overflowing. The note that morning, the flowers, the cards, the ring, and the man she loved more than life itself. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek and she grinned. “Oh baby,” she wept, “I would marry you every day for the rest of our lives.”
They took their time dining, enjoying the meal and feeding morsels to each other. They reminisced about everything, laughing about the now-infamous Estevan debacle, rejoicing in the birth of their children, and remembering both of their overseas vacations. “What’s your favorite memory?” he asked her as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
“I’m not sure I could pick a favorite,” she answered. “Every moment with you is a contender.” Still, she thought for a moment and finally picked one. “Remember the time at the Park? You were still a proprietor. We’d only been on one date, and I never called you back afterward. You were so mad at me and rightfully so. I had the worst show, and I had just found out Estevan was stalking me.” He nodded his head. “You brought me home and made sure I was safe. Remember? You stayed that night on the couch in the bungalow.”
He scratched his chin. He remembered the night but not as fondly as she apparently did. “Yes, I remember.”
“The next morning you made pancakes, banana ones. You stayed with me and never left my side, knowing I had a crazy ex-boyfriend who would complicate things. You stayed with me. That was the day I discovered I loved you, Rog. I’m still amazed, after all this time that you stuck around when you didn’t have to. That is my favorite memory.”
“I couldn’t just abandon you when I didn’t know if you would be safe.” Rog reached for her and stroked her cheek. “I’ll tell you my favorite moment.” He took her hand, playing with her fingers. “It was my first day at Verde Park as a proprietor, green as could be and not really knowing how I got the job in the first place. And here comes a fiery redhead wearing a magician outfit asking for an audition. You were so beautiful, even with that silly hat and the tuxedo bodysuit they had you wearing. Your hand touched mine ever so slightly and I got goosebumps. I never believed in love at first sight until I saw you. I was hooked, Bella,” he smiled softly at her. “You were my first and only love. That is my favorite memory. I couldn’t function after that. And when I went looking for you the Grind was the last place I’d been that night. I went everywhere looking for you hoping to find you, somewhere, anywhere.”
“You’ve never told me that before,” she said sweetly. “I thought you knew I was moonlighting at the Grind.”
“I had no idea,” he replied. “I was almost ready to give up, too. But I had to find you. Had to.” He took a sip of champagne. “It was almost as though if I didn’t find you that night, I’d lose you forever.”
“But I had that steady gig at the Park, Rog.”
“I was already on thin ice there. I was not meant for show business and I was running out of second chances.” He shook his head at the memory. “Everything in my life depended on finding you. I couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying to win your heart.”
“That is the sweetest thing! Funny how our favorite memories are the ones where we fell in love with the other.”
“Meeting you was life-changing,” he said, very matter-of-factly. “I was blessed to have such a moment. Most guys never get to experience it.”
“I’ll confess when you came looking for me at the club that night, I really wasn’t sure what to think of it.” She giggled. “I mean, I liked you professionally but never thought of you that way.”
“It must have been my raw appeal,” he said sarcastically, striking a pose.
“No, it was something greater, deeper. I saw in you a man who was loyal, respectful, and honorable.” She sipped her champagne. “You were exactly the man I needed.”
The waiter returned with the check, and Rog paid it. “Are you ready for the rest of the night?” he asked.
“There’s more?” she replied, dumbfounded.
“Oh darling, I’m just getting started,” he purred.
Morning came late for the two lovebirds, but it was thankfully Saturday. Nobody had to be anywhere, the kids had gone off to friends’ houses for the night. It was past noon when she woke, feeling like she had worked out for 8 hours straight. Every muscle in her body ached but she had to move. She peeled herself away from Rog. They had slept together how they had fallen asleep, neither of them moving. Their bedroom was still locked, so she didn’t worry about the butler coming in to clean or make the beds. She stumbled to the bathroom and sat down. Then she heard a groan of pain from the bedroom. She ran to see Rog trying to stand but to no avail.
“Oh, baby,” she said to him. “You can’t move, can you?” He shook his head. That was the only movement that seemed to not hurt.
“I’m too old for that kind of night, I suppose.” He managed to sit up on the side of the bed.
“Here, let me help you.” She grabbed his arm and steadied him as he stood, wobbly on his feet. One step, one step, moving slowly, Rog made his way to the bathroom. Bella held tight to him until he was finished. They both washed their hands in side by side sinks. She hugged him close.
“Sorry, darling,” Rog lamented. “I think I’m good for a few days.”
They showered together and found the warm water actually helped loosen up their muscles a bit. By the time they were done, they were both walking normally, but still a bit sore.
Though she never took advantage of his cooking skills, Gilbert was actually an accomplished chef. On this day, however, she asked him to make something, anything, so she didn’t have to stand. He prepared stir fry, Rog’s favorite dish, and brought two servings to the dining room table. Rog had already opened a bottle of wine they had brought home from France, and they sipped it as they watched the first unseasonably early snow beginning to fall.
After dinner, they took the wine bottle and their glasses and sat by the fireplace, snuggled together. She was laying on his belly with her arms wrapped around him, her head on his chest, his legs wrapped around her and his hand on her back. They were nearly inseparable and almost indistinguishable from one another. They were asleep on the sofa when the kids came home and Charlotte covered them both with blankets and tiptoed upstairs with Chris.
“Night night, Mama and Daddy,” she whispered as she climbed the stairs, blowing them each a kiss.
Up Next: Chapter Thirteen, Generation Three
Pose Credit (Featured Image)
Poses By Bee – Engagement Portraits