Maria loved teaching school and she loved her children. She had not given birth to them, but she was given the privilege of helping to raising them just the same.
Maria’s students were all excited about the coming Valentine’s Day holiday. Unlike the other holidays throughout the calendar year, Valentine’s Day was special. It held no religious overtones for them. Any previous religious connotations or possible ancient beliefs were long lost in the passage of time.
What remained was a short, one day holiday often centered around schools and individuals in love and dedicated to the consumption of chocolate and roses and, incidentally, to love.
DAY 1 – Feb 1st
Maria went into her classroom on February 1st and immediately noticed the pretty, perfect red apple sitting on the edge of her desk. As she got closer she realized it was really an apple shaped candle, the stem a candlewick. When Maria lifted the ‘apple’ to her nose she realized is smelled like a sweet, spicy apple pie. Delicious.
Maria loved it, but wondered who had given it to her. Maybe a student left it from the last period of the day yesterday. Frowning, she did not recall anyone by her desk late in the day.
As the day progressed, no student came forward that day, with a secret smile on their face, asking if Mrs. Grant liked her apple. No secret grins on anyone’s face actually. Maria was intrigued, to say the least.
DAY 2 – Feb 2nd
Maria had a wonderful art project planned for the day. The kids were to bring in their favorite magazines and stickers and what-nots to personally decorate their own Valentine mailboxes to have their valentines ‘delivered’ to by their friends and ‘lovers’. It was an annual project that Maria participated in with her students. A project that Maria loved just as much as her students. It always gave her a secret insight into the heart and minds of her children.
Arriving at school, Maria hailed her favorite custodian Gabriel and asked him to bring in her big box of art supplies to her classroom for her.
“Sure thing, Mrs. Grant,” he assured her, already grabbing her big cardboard box out of her car and, turning slightly, relieved her of her bookbag from her grasp, as well. “Hey, if you’ll just grab me a cup of java, I’ll meet you in your class,” and he was already heading into the school.
“It’s a deal,” Maria laughed at his retreating back as he jogged up the school steps as if his load weighed nothing at all. Good Lord, what muscles he had across his back and shoulders Absolutely gorgeous.
“Hey, there Cream or sugar?” she yelled as he reached the top step. He glanced back and gave her a hot, smoldering look,”Oh, yeah,” and kept on going through the double doors.
A little while later Maria met Gabriel at her classroom door and handed him his Café Grande as he existed past her. He trotted down the hall, his caffeine fix in his fist, without a backward glance. Maria smiled to herself before entering her class, he sure had a nice backside, too.
Maria listened with only half an ear as her students, both the boys and the girls, decorated their individual mailboxes with great enthusiasm. Maria, though was staring in amazement at her own Valentine mailbox. Not the one she had planned to decorate with the art supplies she had brought this morning.
No. Not that box.
This was a beautiful, romantic box fashioned with red velvet hearts of various sizes and lacy hearts with sentimental sayings that had been delivered by messenger to the school office around 11 am. Miss Blackmon, the secretary, had brought it down to her class immediately because it was ‘just too pretty and too lovely for words’. That was exactly what she gushed at Maria before she left it with her.
The front of her gift was labeled “Miss Maria. The Most Beloved Teacher in School.” It amazed Maria. It was pretty and thoughtful and obviously hand decorated. And Maria had no idea who had sent it.
Maria wondered who it could be. A particularly grateful parent, perhaps? A fellow teacher, maybe? Her husband, yeah.. right? Funny, how Harry was the last person she thought it could be who would send her something this romantic. She and Harry still got along, but they rarely talked anymore and they had not made love in months. Like the proverbial kiss of death, Harry had given her a brand new iron for her Christmas present. Bad Santa, Maria had thought at the time, bad, bad Santa. But maybe Harry wanted to turn over a new leaf? Maybe this was a turn-around in their relationship?
DAY 3 – Feb 3rd
Maria planned to get her Saturday chores done immediately. She saved most of her housework for the weekend. By the time she finished her shower and was dressed, Harry was already up and gone. His note left by the empty coffee pot told her that he would be going fishing with the boys today and was not expected back until late.
Well, so much for romance, thought Maria, as she made herself a pot of coffee. Harry had made no mention the night before about going fishing and no mention of the mailbox, either. Maria knew he would arrive late, dirty and smelly, and probably a little drunk off a 6-pack of Coors he invariably bought himself.
Maria went about her chores and brought the mail in at 2pm, sorting through the usual pile of bills and ads. In the middle of the pile was a pink stationary envelope and inside was the cutest little valentine. Nothing special really. Just a standard, mass produced child’s size Valentine in that great big envelope. While the front of the card said Be My Valentine, the back was hand written in a strong, masculine script and said “Please be mine, dear lovely lady. Yours forever, T.”
‘T’? Maria wondered confused, but more elated by the day. Who could her secret valentine be?