There were red roses, chocolates, and midnight cocktails. We enjoyed a shared bubble bath and laughed when we couldn't quite fit right. The chill of winter was still clinging to the wind, so we kept a fire roaring and ate leftovers right there on the floor, warm and toasty and drunk on each other's affection. It was the best Valentine's Day I can remember... it's just a shame my husband wasn't there to experience it.
I should probably back up and explain. My husband is a pilot for a major airline, so his job frequently takes him away from home. He explained this to me - the necessities of work - when we first got engaged. He was very direct about the fact he'd spend most of his nights in another place, another time zone. "I can't change the way things are," he'd said. Looking back on it, he hadn't even sounded apologetic. That should have been my first clue.
Oh, our marriage was wonderful at first. Despite the strain of his job, he made sure to call me every night when he was away, and we'd giggle on the phone into the early hours of the morning like the newlyweds we were. He used to bring home souvenirs from all the exotic places he'd landed. One of them, a perfectly-crafted snow globe from Russia, still sits on our mantle.
But the honeymoon didn't last forever. Over time, the gifts stopped coming and the calls drifted off into nothing. "How was the flight?" "Long." "How was your day?" "A passenger threw up before takeoff, delayed us half an hour." The vomit of queasy travelers.
Vomit. That's what our marriage had become. That's when I met Rick.
I'd been dissatisfied with my partner for some time, and on a whim I started fooling around with online dating services. I stumbled upon an advertisement with Ashley Madison Reviews, a married dating service website whose motto is "when monogomy turns into monotony." I didn't set out to meet anyone, understand? I wasn't trying to become some Lifetime movie about a neglected housewife and her affair with the gardener. I just wanted to try. It had been seven years since my husband and I exchanged vows, but spending every day by myself with silent phones and Russian snow globes, it felt like a hundred.
Seven years is a long time to be lonely, and now I understand the seven year itch phenomenon. I met Rick when he responded to my profile. He was cute, interesting, and perhaps most importantly of all, interested in *me*. We spent hours messaging back and forth. We had long discussions about movies and music, and he never brushed off my opinions or tried to sound superior. He asked questions about my life and actually seemed interested in the answers. You can't imagine how intoxicating it is to feel *wanted*, to have someone *listening* to you, when you've spent seven years neglected by the one person who was supposed to cherish you most.
Rick was local, so we eventually decided we'd try meeting face to face. I was a bit nervous because my profile picture wasn't exactly the most recent. Actually, it was two years old. And I may have photoshopped it a bit. In my defense, do you know how hard it is to take a good picture of yourself? We arranged to meet in a local cafe. You know, just in case he was a creepy ax murderer or a serial dater who liked to photoshop two year old pictures. I arrived ten minutes early, hoping I could see him before he saw me. We'd agreed to both wear red scarves, because winter was still going strong in early January. When I saw the man at the counter wearing a red scarf, I thought for a minute that someone had played a terrible joke on me.
He was *gorgeous*. Way, way more than his picture suggested. In fact, I'm pretty sure he must have deliberately posed to look as bad as possible, because that's the only way such a God-given hottie could have come across as merely average. He had dark, almost curly hair, stormy gray eyes, and just a bit of stubble. He wore a dark sweater with the sleeves rolled up the elbows, bracing his strong forearms on the cafe counter. He looked about ten years younger than the age I remembered from his profile. How could I compare to that? What was I doing? I almost turned tail and ran. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of going home alone to an empty house... for another empty night... waiting for the next empty night. I put on a smile and said hello.
It turned out to be a great decision, because Rick in person was just as charming as Rick online. He made intelligent conversation and listened to me when I spoke. He made no mention of my, ahem, digital altering. We had coffee, and coffee turned into dinner, and dinner turned into a weekly date. I was happier than I'd been since I first married my husband. When Valentine's Day started creeping towards us, I wondered how to play it. Would it be presumptuous to ask about his plans? Would he want to spend it with someone else? My husband wouldn't be a problem, because he'd already informed me he'd be in Mexico. Happy holidays to me.
I needn't have worried, though. Rick whispered softly in my ear his solution to the problem by asking me to come over on Valentine's Day, telling me that he had a "special idea" to celebrate. In case you're wondering, no, we hadn't crossed that line. Yet. It was definitely on my mind when I went to his house for the first time, on that Valentine's Day. February 14th was going to be a holiday to celebrate and remember.
He'd made dinner for the two of us, and surprised me at the door with red roses. He laughed, a little self-consciously, about his own cliche ideas of romance. I told him that as long as he remembered the chocolates, he could be as cliche as he liked. No man gets between me and Godiva. Then we were ready for his special idea. He seemed really nervous then, but I thought it was endearing. He took my hand and led me into the back of the house, to a cozy wood-paneled room with a fireplace, and it suddenly became obvious what *kind* of freelancing he did. Rick was an artist, and for Valentine's Day, he wanted to paint me. He seemed almost embarrassed by the request, and told me I could refuse if I wanted. But nothing was further from my mind. In truth, his nervousness put me at ease.
We had come full circle from our first meeting, when I was so awkward and he was confident and out of my league. Now, I was the one who could offer something to him. I could give *him* a gift. Myself. I wasn't self-conscious. It seemed natural that we'd end up here, after weeks of dating and flirting, after exchanging opinions about everything under the sun. We'd already shared everything about ourselves. I was comfortable with him, far more comfortable than I'd ever been with my husband. And he was hundreds of miles away.
In this cozy room in the back of the house, with a winter snow keeping the rest of the world at bay, it seemed like Rick and I were the only two people in the world. I slipped off my clothes and stood in front of Risk with nothing to hide, and he put me to paper and made me beautiful. Other things came later - the wine, the fireplace, the bubble bath. Rick was determined to make the day as wonderful as possible, so he pulled out all the stops. I got my chocolate, too. We fed them to each other under the covers, making even more of a mess than the activities that came before it.
But when I look back and think about Valentine's Day, I think about the painting. I remember the loneliness and isolation that led me to Rick, and the chance I took on Ashley Madison, because monogamy had turned into monotony, and just blindly hoping for something better. I remember the way Rick made me feel, all that attention and affection after living so long with my husband's neglect. I remember his strong, capable hands moving across the canvas, smudged with paint, and the way he looked at me so intensely as an artist, determined to get it right. I remember being disappointed with so many Christmas' but I also will always remember the BEST Valentine's Day ever, how special I felt, if only for one day.
CELEBRATE VALENTINE'S DAY THE ASHLEY MADISON WAY! GUARANTEED AFFAIRS!