Betty gazed down upon the tattered heart-shaped chocolate box that she held in her hands. The faded words, “Be Mine” were written upon its face. She thought back to the first time she had ever read those words.
It was Friday, February 14, 1975. Betty and her friends were huddled around the cafeteria table talking about all the boys that they thought were cute at their high school, when from behind, Betty heard someone clearing their throat. She and her friends turned to see who it was and giggled as a gangly young man nervously stood in front of them. His face was crimson as he worked up the nerve to speak. One of Betty’s friends spoke first asking the geeky boy what he wanted.
“Um, Betty,” he began to say. His voice squeaking with every third word. Her friends all giggled, but Betty sat silently smiling. “Betty, I don’t know if you even know who I am, but I, um…Well, you see…”
The boy removed his hands from behind his back, and in them, held a red, heart-shaped box. Holding it out to Betty, he asked, “Will you be my Valentine?”
Betty’s friends all began to laugh, and other students sitting at nearby tables joined in as well, but to everyone’s surprise, Betty stood up, walked over to the boy, accepted the gift, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Yes, Alan, I would be happy to be your Valentine,” she said. Everyone stood in silent shock for a moment, then the murmuring began. They couldn’t believe that one of the most popular girls in school just kissed a geek from the school band.
Alan wasn’t sure if he was more surprised that Betty kissed him, or that she knew his name. Betty broke him from his trance when she held him by the hand and asked him if he wanted to go for a walk. They strolled out to the field at the back of the school and sat it the bleachers. There, they shared the chocolates and their feelings for one another.
Alan admitted that he had a crush on her since the eighth grade and was surprised to learn that Betty had secretly been admiring his skill on the guitar during the school concerts. She sometimes stood outside the classroom when he was in class and peered at him through the small pane of glass on the door.
Their relationship began to flourish, and as a tradition, every year on Valentine’s Day, Alan would present her with a heart-shaped box of chocolates with the words, “Be Mine” written upon it.
They continued their romance while at college together, and in their final year, on Valentine’s Day, Alan had taken Betty to a classy Italian restaurant where they dined by candlelight. When the waitress asked if they were ready for dessert, Alan just nodded, and she smiled and walked off.
“She didn’t even ask us what we wanted?” Betty stated, confused at what had just transpired.
Moments later, the waitress returned with a silver platter, covered with a dome-shaped lid. She laid it on the table in front of Betty and lifted the lid. Inside was a heart-shaped box with the words, “Be Mine” written on the tag, but this time it was not a box of chocolates, but a red velvet box less than three inches in size. She flipped open the lid, and inside was a heart-shaped diamond ring. The colors glistened in the flicker of the candles. Tears formed in Betty’s eyes as Alan dropped to one knee. He lifted the box with the ring, held it out it front of Betty and said, “Be Mine…forever.”
The entire restaurant was silent as they awaited Betty’s reply, and without hesitation, she shouted out, “Yes! Yes, I am yours forever!” Everyone in the restaurant clapped and cheered. The manager of the restaurant had a complimentary bottle of champagne sent to the table to commemorate the special occasion.
The wedding took place two years after their engagement on Valentine’s Day. They had both graduated from college and had started into their careers. Alan started work in the music industry as a sound editor, and Betty started her career as a fashion designer. Both careers required them to dedicate long hours toward their craft, but instead of distancing them, it brought them closer together, because they looked forward to the moments that could spend together, and they made the best of every minute.
Every year throughout their marriage, in addition to an anniversary gift, Alan would present Betty with a box of chocolates in a heart-shaped box. One year as a gift, he booked a getaway for the two of them to Alberta, Canada where they traveled to a mountain range just south of Exshaw, Alberta. The name of the mountain they wanted to see was “Heart Mountain” because of the heart-shaped layer of limestone near the peak of the mountain.
Another year, they traveled to Heart Reef in Australia, a wondrous natural coral formation in the shape of a heart. Another year, they went to Lough Ouler, a heart-shaped lake south of Dublin, Ireland located in the Wicklow Mountains. That one was a bit of a challenge for them to get to, but worth the muddy hike. Each year, their anniversary was heart themed even if they stayed at home for a romantic evening for two.
On the evening of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, they got together with their family for a glorious celebration. They now had three children with one grandchild on the way. The eldest child was their daughter, Aimee, who was married and pregnant with a baby boy. The middle child was their daughter, Davina, and the youngest, was their son, Carwyn. Each of their names were specifically chosen because the meanings were associated with love.
Betty and Alan loved all their children equally, and the children knew it. When they were all old enough, the started traveling together as a family every Valentine’s Day. Sometimes it would be abroad, though most times, they would choose short road trips.
Betty was now the CEO of a reputable fashion design firm, and Alan became a successful music producer. On occasion, he would even pick up his guitar and play a few weekend gigs with some of the local bands.
Aimee decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and started into design as well. Showing no favoritism, she put her to work at the firm working as an assistant to the designers where her duties consisted of fetching materials, coffee, or whatever the designer needed. It was a stressful job, but she knew that she couldn’t just jump into the seat of a designer until she proved herself. Now that she was six months pregnant, her duties were lessened, though she chose to go above-and-beyond whenever possible.
Davina was in her late teens and was only interested in boys. Unlike her mom, she preferred the more popular boys. Despite her mother’s warnings about heartbreak, she continued date boys who were only interested in one thing; something Davina was not quite ready for.
Carwyn had the most musical talent of the three children, but instead of guitar like his father, he studied piano. His instructor said that he was a natural and would go far one day if he kept practicing. At only ten-years-old, Carwyn could play a mix of classical compositions like Beethoven or Bach, and he also taught himself how to play some popular pop and R&B songs.
Each of the children excelled in their own unique way as the years passed. Davina eventually found “Mister Right” and was married at the age of twenty-three. She decided not to pursue a career, but instead she wanted to raise a family. Aimee became one of her mother’s top designers in five short years. Her imaginative designs were spellbinding. Carwyn started performing with several bands in his early twenties, but at the age of twenty-seven, with his dad’s influence in the music industry, he did his first solo performance in front of close to eight-thousand people. Alan produced Carwyn’s first album of his unique style of classical/pop music.
One month before they were to celebrate their forty-fifth wedding anniversary, Alan fell ill and ended up in the hospital. The doctor said that he developed Meningitis and was put into quarantine immediately. The hospital would only allow one visitor at a time, and they had to dress in full personal protective equipment (PPE), when they did so. Betty allowed the children to take their turns first, then she went in last.
Alan was hooked up to a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own anymore. The doctors did not believe he had much time left. Betty tried her best to hold back the tears when she saw the love of her life laying there, helpless. She reached out with her gloved hand and placed it upon his. Alan reacted to her touch immediately, and his heart rate began to increase slightly. He turned his hand palm-up and grasped onto his wife’s hand. She could feel that he was losing his strength.
For a moment, they just stared in one another’s eyes, saying nothing, then Alan attempted to speak, but the ventilator made it impossible. Betty stopped him from trying and said that he did not have to say anything because his heart had been speaking for him for years already, and she knew the words by heart. His eyes began to tear up. Then his gaze became distant and the heart monitor flatlined. The steady tone echoed in her ears. Betty called for help immediately. Seconds later, the nurse ran into the room and called for a crash cart. More medical staff rushed in, and they charged up the defibrillator as one of the nurses escorted Betty out of the room.
Betty stood outside the door listening as the doctor called out, “Clear!” each time they shocked Alan’s heart. Eventually the commotion stopped, and the emergency staff began to exit the room. The doctor led Betty to the waiting area where her children awaited then told them that Alan had passed away. Betty was devastated and began to faint. Carwyn grabbed her and helped her to a nearby seat. All the children surrounded their mother and held onto one another for support.
A few months after the funeral, Betty decided to start packing up some of her husband’s belongings. As she was emptying out the bedroom closet, she came across a box on the top shelf. She took it down and opened it up, and inside, were memories of their time together. There were ticket stubs from the Heart concert they attended in the eighties, pictures of some of their adventures around the world, baby pictures of their children, and at the bottom of the box was a tattered red heart-shaped box. She lifted it out and after staring at it for a few minutes, she clutched it to her chest and said, “I am still yours, my Valentine…forever.”