"Is everything alright?" she asked him as they ate together in his office.
"Fine. Why do you ask?" he questioned, never lifting his eyes from The Book or his sweet & sour pork.
Normally, Chinese and a late night meant Betty and Daniel would share some personal issues in exchange for advice or they would say one little thing and go off on a ten minute tangent., but not tonight. This evening, Daniel was so focused that he and Betty barely spoke unless it was one hundred percent pertinent. As she thought about it, she realized this had become a little too frequent of late.
They had been dating since that beautiful Christmas only two months ago and Betty had never been so happy. Often, they would leave from work to go eat or, sometimes, they would go to his loft for a quiet night in and a home cooked meal. However, the last couple weeks had consisted of going home alone while Daniel took care of 'some things'.
"Dad called earlier and he wants to know if you want to come for Valentine's Day dinner."
"Let me guess: you have 'some things' to do," she said smartly, giving him a deceptively understanding smile. He looked up from his work.
"No…" he said gently. "No, I wanted to tell you that I already made plans for us. What was that about? 'Some things'," he said, using air quotes. She sighed.
"Nothing. I'm just… I'm worried about you. You seem to have a lot of things to do lately. Things you won't let me help you with."
Daniel took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I just have a few things that I need to do by myself. Don't worry about it," he said, silently pleading with her to understand. Betty bit her lower lip.
"Are you tired of me, Daniel?" she asked, thankful she had managed to keep her tears at bay. Daniel's eyes narrowed.
"What?" he snapped. "What in God's name would give you that idea?"
"I don't know… I guess… It's nothing; just a little paranoid," she said softly and gathered her papers together while Daniel closed The Book.
"Listen, I've made reservations for us at Atelier at the Ritz-Carlton for six tomorrow night. I'll be by to pick you up around five-thirty. Sound alright?"
"Sure," she said softly, slipping her coat on as they walked to the elevator. "I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked, but Daniel stopped her, pulling her in for a quick kiss as the doors closed. It hummed quietly down the shaft while Daniel kissed Betty. He smiled against her lips.
"Do you think I'd let the woman I love take a bus home by herself at this hour?" he murmured, his arms around her waist. "I'll take you home."
"You'll be going too far out of your way. I'll be fine," she reassured him, but his lips pressing against her cut off her protests. His fingers tangled into her hair and held her mouth to his, his arms twining around his neck in response. As he lifted his lips reluctantly from hers, she sighed. "Okay."
Daniel pulled Betty into him with a chuckled as they walked out of the lobby to the waiting town car. He helped her into the vehicle and slid in after her, the driver shutting the door behind the, She curled against him and rested her head on his shoulder as the driver made his way to Queens.
With little traffic at the late hour, the drive was relatively shirt and Daniel was soon walking her to her door. He pressed a tender kiss to her lips, her body arching against him as the tip of his tongue traced her upper lip. She smiled against him.
"Good night, Daniel," she murmured, sighing as he released her and stepped back, his eyes hooded.
"Good night, Betty," he replied, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. "I'll see you tomorrow evening. I'll be here at five-thirty," he said an moved back to the car to pause with the door open. "You do know it's a black tie even, right?"
"Event?" There's a big party?" He nodded. "Okay," she said breathlessly, a lot more nervous that she had been seconds earlier.
"I can't wait to see you tomorrow night."
"Good night, Daniel," she laughed.
"Good night, Betty."
With that, she stepped inside, listened as the car pulled away and trudged her way up the steps to her room, trying to shake the idea that the purpose of tomorrow night's date was to end their relationship with one last hurrah.
Most of the fourteenth passed by in a blur of preparations, letting Hilda straighten and set her hair while Justin went shopping for an 'affordable' evening gown. Betty's sister traced her eyes in a smoky grey and finished painting her lips raspberry pink as Justin bounded in and showed Hilda a corner of the gown to set her color palette.
Eyes sparkling through her light make-up and her worry, she went upstairs at five and stood at her door, staring at her bed. A dark navy gown was laid out and a pair of silver pumps were standing in a box beside it.
Dressed fifteen minutes later, she stood staring into her mirror for a moment. The dress skimmed her body and fell to her ankles in an A-line cut while the gauzy material wrapped around her shoulders as sleeves. It was a little more revealing than she would have liked, but at least Justin had bypassed stilettoes for two-inch flared heels.
"Wow…" breathed out a voice behind her as Hilda walked in with Justin in tow. They looked Betty over as she spun before them and smiled. Hilda gave Betty's hair one last splash of spray while Justin flattened the belt at Betty's waist, tying it off to the side and finishing just as the doorbell rang. Betty's sister and nephew sprinted from the room down to the door while Betty took a few deep breaths in her room. Head held high, she took the silver shawl Justin had bought and wrapped it around her shoulders, took her purse and made her way down the stairs, the crowd at the base going silent when the top step creaked.
"Wow!" Daniel breathed out at the bottom of the stairs, paralyzed. "Betty, you look stunning," he said quietly and watched her turn a glorious shade of red before offering her his arm and escorting her out the door to the waiting limousine. "Here we go," he whispered and the car disappeared into the night.
The maitre d' showed them to their table in the restaurant, couples scattered about the room. Their host lead the way through the tables and to the back of the room to a small private area that could easily be closed off to accommodate a party of a dozen or so. Betty looked around the area and saw the tabled deserted surrounded by empty chairs. She wondered instantly what was going on.
"There are a few people meeting us. Why not go have a drink?" Daniel asked and escorted Betty to the bar on the other side of the restaurant. She took a seat on a stool and tried to watch for the people that were supposed to be arriving, but Daniel took a seat opposite her so that her back was turned to the entrance. Her heart gave a little jump as she reconsidered her idea about the purpose of tonight's dinner. Surely Daniel would not be so cruel as to have any friends, family or clients witness their break-up? If he meant to dissolve the relationship this evening, he would not have invited anyone to watch… or would he? Other people present might lessen the chance of her causing a scene.
"Betty?" he mumbled and her mind returned to the present from its haze. She looked up and Daniel was looking her over in concern. "Are you alright?" he asked, taking her chin in his hand and holding her eyes to his. "You really zoned out there. Is something bothering you?"
"No," she said, plastering on a bright and chirpy smile. "Nothing. I'm sorry for drifting out of it. How much time did I lose? It's not ten years from now, is it?" she joked, watching Daniel give a worried grin.
"Hardly. It's only been three minutes since we sat down. You're drink is here," he said and pointed to the glass in front of her. The cosmopolitan shone pink in front of her and she took a small, but healthy sip of the alcoholic beverage. She wondered if tonight would be her first passed-out, drop-down drunk should a break-up ensue, but Daniel began speaking again and she was dragged away from her thoughts.
"What was that?" she muttered. "I'm really sorry."
"I said our guests have arrived. Do you feel like joining them?" he asked and she nodded her head. He took her drink and set it down before helping her off her stool. His hand tugged her closer and he hooked his hand through hers and, as they walked into the semi-private section, she was greeted by a half a dozen familiar faces. Justin, Hilda, Ignacio, Alexis, D.J., Claire, and Christina were standing by the table and waving from their seats while Daniel beamed proudly when Betty looked up at him. "Surprise," he whispered and she smiled and pressed a kiss to his lips.
"I made plans for another car to pick up Christina, Mom, Alexis and D.J., then swing by your place a few minutes after we left to pick up your family. Happy Valentine's Day, Betty."
They walked to their spot in the middle of the table and soon, the table was alive with animated chatter and banter while waiters flitted to and from the table bringing plates of entrees, soups, salads, main dishes and desserts until they all sat sipping at their coffees.
"Will you marry me?" Daniel burst and several people sputtered and choked on their coffee mid-sip. Betty's face turned to Daniel while the rest of the table grew quiet. Her eyes narrowed as he bit his lower lip for a second. "I'm sorry; I had this whole speech planned, but my heart can't take this any longer."
Betty gasped as he slid off his chair to his knee beside her, pulling a small velvet box from his pocket. He clicked it open and tears fell from Betty's eyes as she looked at the beautiful silver ring with a single diamond solitaire centered on it. She lifted her gaze to Daniel.
"Everything I wanted to say… it boils down to one simple fact: I'm in love with you and I just can't imagine my life without you, Betty. Please say you'll marry me. I promise I'll do everything I can for the rest of my life to make you happy," he swore and took a deep, shuddering breath. Suddenly, Betty started to laugh and the whole table grew deathly silent while Daniel turned porcelain white.
"Oh, my God!" she laughed until the spasms gave way to pure tears of happiness and euphoria. She smiled down at him. "You'd been acting so weird lately… I thought you were planning to break up with me tonight," she gasped, making him burst into quiet, but hysteric laughter.
"Good God, Betty… I can't even fathom a future without you in it by my side. Betty, say 'yes'," he whispered. "Say you'll marry me," he whispered, pressing his forehead to hers. She smiled.
"Yes," she whispered, biting her lower lip for a moment. "Yes, I'll ma–," But his mouth was already pressed to hers, cutting off the rest with a searing and desperate kiss. The table exploded in applause around them, tears in many of their eyes. Gently, Daniel and Betty peeled themselves away from each other and he took the ring from the box and slid it onto her finger. She smiled and gave it the briefest of glances before throwing her arms around his neck and holding her against him as he reigned kisses all over her face.
"I love you, Betty," he whispered before claiming her lips again for a moment, the clapping waking them back to reality as everyone wished them well.
"I love you, too, Daniel," she replied, minutes later as they crawled into the back of the limousine and headed to Daniel's loft with no intention of ordering a car to bring Betty home later…
Valentine's Day, the following year:
"I figured I had to do something pretty big to come anywhere near your beautiful gift to me last year," Betty said as she walked over and sat beside Daniel on the couch of his loft. A wedding band now accompanied the engagement ring she wore on her left hand, a matching band on Daniel's left ring finger. He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her even closer to him. He sighed.
"Betty, as long as I have you, the rest is extra," he said gently as she gave a little purr of contentment.
"So does that mean you don't want my gift?" she asked and was rewarded with being pulled into his lap and kissed the way that always meant a long and interesting night was ahead of them. He lifted his mouth from hers and smiled.
"I never said that," he groaned, letting his hand rest on her abdomen and she reached to the coffee table for a square envelop. She handed it to him and his eyes narrowed. "What's this? A Valentine?" he asked jokingly and lifted the flap to pull out a black and white picture of a small black void in the middle of white fuzz shaped like a curved trapezoid. He swung his gaze up to hers. "Betty…"
"Seven weeks…" she mumbled, tears springing to her eyes when she saw droplets appear in his. He gasped and curled a hand behind her head, bringing her lips to his in a furiously frenzied and yet deeply tender kiss. He gave a light chuckle and continued to rain kisses all over her face as he hugged her tighter and tighter, resting his hand on her stomach once more, but with a completely different feeling than the unconscious need to touch her from earlier.
"That just about outdoes me," he said with a wide smile. She bit her lip and leaned away from him, coaxing his eyes up to hers. She smiled.
"It's twins…" His mouth fell open.
"Outdone," he whispered and kissed her tenderly as he held her close to him. She sighed and placed her hand over his on her abdomen.
"I love you, Daniel," she whispered tearily. He smiled.
"I love all three of you," he gasped.
It certainly was a very Meade Valentine to remember.