"Why would you assume I forgot? I'm a genius with an eidetic memory. And even if I wasn't, Toby's obnoxious, repetitive jabbering about it would have reminded me. Of course I would remember we got together at their wedding…" Walter had a quizzical and confused look on his face that was classic him.
Still in shock over his gesture with the flowers, Paige argued, "But… But you said you didn't understand the significance of last weekend. And you never said… You didn't mention…"
"I thought that was the purpose of a surprise. Not to mention it in advance. And I still don't see the significance of last weekend. If Toby was going to be accurate, he should have given Happy 358 pieces of candy and 51.2 notes. I guess if he was rounding up to the nearest whole number, 12 roses would have been a more realistic computation of months…"
He would've gone on all day if Paige hadn't stopped him with, "But you don't celebrate holidays. You've told me you don't see the importance of days on a calendar."
Walter shrugged and interrupted, "Me, I remember everything, though."
When she still stared at him, dumbfounded, he said, "August 7, 1988, I lost my first tooth. November 11, 1991, I got my first black eye from Scottie Donovan at school because I pointed out how his model of the solar system he brought for show and tell was inaccurate. He mixed up Jupiter's moons with Saturn's. Who does that? January 2, 1994, the first time my father told me he would never understand me. Then in more recent history, October 31, 2014, you called me 'sweet' and I recognized I felt differently about you. I realized it mattered to me what you thought of me. November 10, 2014, I heard you sing for the first time. And I was captivated. December 24, 2014, was the first Christmas I enjoyed celebrating. I felt truly happy. Thanks to you and Ralph. I could go on. The point is, the way my mind works, I store too many dates to mark every one that has an event associated with it. But I knew this particular one would be important to you. And-and I love you, so it's significant to me too."
Paige gave her boyfriend a wobbly smile as he approached and sat next to her on the edge of the bed. "I should have known. I can't believe I underestimated you. I'm sorry. I'd actually love for you to go on and finish telling me all the dates you have 'stored' having to do with your feelings for me sometime. But I need to get ready for work and get Ralph to school. And by the way, I still think you're sweet. Thank you for my beautiful flowers and for remembering."
"No." Walter shook his head.
"No? What do you mean, 'no'?"
"I mean, no, you don't have to get ready for work. Your boss gave you the day off. He has plans for you," He gave her a little mischievous smirk then added, "I hope you don't mind this once. I know you don't like it when I make decisions for Ralph without asking, but it would have ruined the surprise. Cabe just came by to get him. He's going to take him to school, then Ralph's staying over with him tonight."
Paige's mouth fell open. She was simply astonished.
The longer she was quiet, the more worried Walter appeared. "You aren't mad about Ralph…?"
"You mean the flowers aren't the surprise? There's more?" She was finally able to say.
He was looking at her as if she was a moron, but at least he didn't express the thought. He'd learned a thing or two in four years. "It's our very first anniversary. The first one I've celebrated with anyone ever. I've never had a romantic relationship last this long before. Not counting my marriage to Happy, of course. I mean it shouldn't count since there wasn't anything romantic about that…"
Paige threw her arms around his neck and stopped his words with her mouth. And her tongue. Then her wandering hands got involved and it was quite a few minutes and more than one crushed calla lily later before they resumed their conversation aside from the moaning of each other's names and one or two sighed 'I love you's.
As they lay side by side trying to catch their breath, Walter said, "Not that I'm objecting, but you've just made us late for phase one."
"Phase One, huh? Have I said I love you yet? Have I mentioned that 'irrefutable fact' today?"
"Maybe once or twice, but it was in the throes of passion, so I don't blame you if you can't remember. I'm the one with the perfect recall." He rolled toward her and gave her a self-satisfied grin, tracing her arm with his fingertips causing Paige to shiver. It still amazed her how physically affectionate he could be. He'd come such a long way.
"Hmph. Proud of yourself, are you?" She couldn't hide her own silly smile. Oh, how she adored this guy. Pulling the covers up and over them, she asked. "What if I made plans for today too? What do we do then?"
"I guess we could compare notes and see which activities we'd rather do?"
Paige was dying to hear what else Walter planned, so she said, "You first."
Seeming to forget he was only wearing his unbuttoned shirt and a pair of hastily yanked on underwear, his hair standing up on one side where she'd been tugging on it, Walter made quite the picture when he abruptly sat up. Especially when his face lit up and he answered, "I'm glad you asked. I was going to buy you breakfast at Nemos'. See? Because it's where we first met. My research showed it's considered romantic for a couple to revisit the place they met." He paused, looking at her eagerly waiting for her approval. The man was so damn cute. At this rate, they'd be lucky if they left the condo. At her nod, he kept going, "Then we have to catch a 10 o'clock ferry… Wait. Do I have to tell you everything?"
"If we want to decide which plans we want to follow, yes."
He looked a little disappointed, but continued, "I suppose that's logical. I booked us a room at a five star hotel on Catalina Island for the night. Lots of art galleries and ecological exploring we can do today and even though it's a little early for the majority of the flying fish migration, I talked to this guy I know. He's going to rent us a boat with a special light and he thinks we'll be able to see a few early ones anyway. Then there will be star-gazing on the beach tonight if it's clear."
For the third time that morning, Paige was floored and speechless. "But you hate art," was the first thing out of her mouth. Who was the one with no filter again?
"I don't hate it. That implies an emotion. I'm indifferent and I don't understand the importance. But the galleries are for you. I can endure it because I'll be spending time with you watching you enjoy it. The flying fish and the stars appeal to me… And the being alone with you for the night," Walter added with a slight leer. "What were your plans for us today?"
Paige suddenly felt like she'd brought a water pistol to a gun fight. Her brilliant plans didn't seem so great anymore. Her boyfriend had just blown her clean away in the romance department. Would wonders never cease!? "Well… my plans aren't nearly as appealing. I was going to have Sly keep Ralph tonight. Then I was going to take you to the new show at the planetarium hoping to make out with you when it got dark and distract you from the show. I cooked all weekend thinking I'd have all your favorites for dinner and then serve the dessert course on top of me. So, I guess Catalina it is?"
Walter smiled broadly and a tiny bit smugly. He knew his plans won the day.
Paige knew her present beat his at least. And she couldn't resist needling him about it. "I got you a killer gift though. You won't be able to top it, for sure. Just wait here a sec."
She flipped the sheets back and enjoyed his appreciative gaze and his little growl while she slowly strolled across the room in the nude, grabbing her robe from the chair in the corner. Strictly speaking, she could've just put on the pajamas that were lying on the floor beside the bed, but she couldn't resist teasing him. He was so easy.
Stretching up on her tiptoes, Paige reached into the dark corner of the top of her closet. Finding the package where she knew it would be, she took it down and brought it back over to Walter who was sitting on the end of the bed.
"Go ahead. Open it." She urged when he looked hesitant.
Ripping off the wrapping, he found a digital photo frame. When he glanced up at her and frowned, she took it from him and turned it on. Pictures started scrolling and she was gratified to notice, Walter was fixated on the images and nearly drooling. The pictures on his work computer gave her the idea. It had cost her a little embarrassment to pose for those photos in the scanty, suggestive outfits, but judging by her boyfriend's reaction, it was well worth it. When he'd seen them all at least twice, he stuttered a stunned and breathless thank you.
Blushing a little, Paige reminded him sternly, "That's for your eyes only, please. Keep it somewhere secure where prying genius eyes won't find it."
Still a little dazzled, eyes still focused on the pictures, he nodded saying, "I promise." Then he looked up. "Did you want your gift now? I was going to wait til tonight, but since you already gave me my present…"
"You bought me something else? It's too much, Walter. The hotel, the boat, everything. All that was enough. You didn't need to do anything else…" She loved presents however, so it was Paige's turn to be eager, suppressing the urge to bounce up and down, she said, "But yes, please! Could I have it now? Depending on what it is, it just might make our night even better, right?"
"Okay. I didn't exactly buy this though."
Walter walked across the room to the chest of drawers. Pulling out a sock roll from the back of the drawer, he removed something and hid it behind his back as he made his way toward her. He seemed nervous all of the sudden. Without preamble, he shoved the little velvet box into her hands.
Oh, boy. Oh… It was earrings, right? It had to be. It couldn't be… Paige couldn't breathe. Let alone make her fingers cooperate. Her heart was racing. She was going to faint.
Walter haltingly sat beside her on the bed. He took the box from her uncooperative hands and lifted the lid.
Paige gasped. She was dead wrong. Walter's gift was definitely better. So much better, she nearly started laughing or crying hysterically, but she couldn't decide which. Because nestled in the red velvet was the most beautiful ring she'd ever seen. It looked old fashioned, the intricate Celtic filigree design gave the band a delicate, lacy appearance. The stone was small, but it caught the morning light and sparkled brightly.
"It was my great grandmother's. So I didn't technically buy it," Walter murmured, sounding unsure. "So-so it's been in the family a long time. Sorry the diamond isn't bigger…"
"Walter," Paige choked out around the thickness in her throat. She swallowed hard. "Did you maybe have a question for me?"
"Oh. Uh, yes. Yes, I do. Um, you and I. I haven't… M-marriage is a, uh, big, but we-we… And, so would you… That is, will you…" Walter stopped and cleared his throat, turning anguished eyes on her.
Paige couldn't wait another second. "Yes! Yes! Of course I will!" She flung herself at him.
They missed the ferry.
AN: I've had a little trouble with confidence in my writing lately because someone said I make Walter sound too robotic. I hate to be that super sensitive person, but... stupid or not, it makes it hard to want to finish something I'm supposed to be doing for fun. Writers can be insecure even if writing is just a hobby. I know I've said it before, but if you like a story, say so. The reviews are a big reason why we publish. A huge thank you to my regular reviewers! You're the best!