My husband and I had been dating almost a year when our first Valentine’s Day came around. We were decidedly head over heels for each other. For the most part, I felt my flag had been firmly planted in his heart, but fleeting doubts and pangs of jealousy could still cause my stomach to sink.
Of particular concern at that time was a small, hot pink, stuffed satin heart hanging from a ribbon on his TV stand. It said in printed, white script, “I love you.”
The mysterious token of love predated me. Its prominent display concerned me, mocking me with its shininess, its presence constantly telling me, “You don’t know who else loves him.” I didn’t ask about it, afraid of the answer, not wanting to learn that it was a relic of a previous relationship - one that still warranted a spot in his living room.
Instead, I stewed, tormented by its existence.
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So I did the only, logical thing for a girl to do. I set about to create him a better stuffed heart. I pulled out my art supplies and found a small piece of red silk. On it, I strung a design in iridescent beads, then in the center, I affixed an antique skeleton key - one given to me by my beloved grandfather.
It was the very key to my heart. Its artistic magnificence was surely enough to overshadow the cheap, store bought stuffed heart, and I knew it would forever take its place.
On Feb. 14, I wrapped it elaborately and gifted him the Valentine.
“Aww, thanks,” he said, grinning with admiration. I explained the care I’d put into it, and that I’d shared with him a precious key from my grandpa’s collection. He admired it, then hung it prominently, right next to the other stuffed heart. My mouth gaped in horror, though I said nothing.
I continued to ruminate on the significance of his “I love you” stuffed heart for several more weeks. He, of course, had no idea of my turmoil and desire to not care about that other heart hanging there. But try as I did, no show of affection on his part, no assurance of his devotion, was enough to allow me to dismiss it.
Finally, I determined that I must get to the bottom of the issue, so I braced myself to ask, and prepared myself to hear the truth.
I twisted my face into the most innocent, fake smile I could muster, and picked up the offending heart, dangling it from my finger, and asked in a sing-song voice, “Oh, this is cute, did your mom give this to you?”
He looked for a moment as though he’d never seen it before, then smiled a silly grin.
“Yeah, my mom put that on my Valentine. She always gives me something for Valentine’s Day.”
Imagine my relief - almost anticlimactic as I realized my own absurdity. I knew then that I was, indeed, the only girl he thought about. Other than his mom, that is, and I could deal with that. My fear and lack of confidence had been energies wasted.
Except, 19 years later, that intense desire for him to be mine, and mine only, serves as a reminder. Love cools, and relationships lose their desperate fervor. Yet the key to my heart, that I once jealously sewed for him, still hangs on his desk. It reminds me of those days, and that our love for each other is a prize indeed, and one worth fighting for.