From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

An Anonymous Rose

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” one of the other teachers called to me as we left the school building and walked to the parking lot.

“Thanks, the same to you.”

She giggled as I returned the greeting. “This will be the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever. Burt and I were looking at diamond rings, and he asked what kind I wanted. I’m sure he’s going to propose tonight.”

“Congratulations,” I said. “Although I should congratulate the groom and say ‘best wishes’ to you.”

“Maybe you better save it, in case I misread the signs.” Even though she smiled, I saw the panic in her eyes.

“There’s no school on Saturday and I can’t wait until Monday,” I said. “Call me tomorrow with the happy news.”

“Okay. If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know the news was bad.”

“It’ll be good,” I assured her with a thumbs-up sign.

I watched the young teacher burn rubber as she took off. She was so in love and so eager to start her romantic evening, I felt for her.

Dear Lord, I whispered, please make this a happy day for her to remember, not a disappointment. May she receive the proposal and the ring she wants, and may their love last forever. Then I added, Please help me through the pain of remembering my own special Valentine’s Day.

Ray and I had dated for years and were deeply in love, but a lot of obstacles kept us from marrying. Finally, the time was right, and, though we couldn’t have a big wedding, we wanted it to be special.

“Let’s get married on Valentine’s Day,” I told Ray. “Even with your absentmindedness, you won’t forget our anniversary.”

Miraculously, Ray never had a problem remembering our anniversary. Of course, the valentine cards I always scattered over the house for weeks ahead might have helped.

For our twelfth anniversary we invited our two closest couple friends to dinner, and Ray brought me a dozen long-stemmed red roses. “One for each perfect year,” he’d written on the mushy valentine enclosed.

That was the last anniversary we ever celebrated. Ray died eight months later.

The date I chose so he would remember, became a day I would come to wish to forget. But I never could. Worst of all, now I was alone on Valentine’s Day every year.

My children were grown and married. My actor buddy was rehearsing a new play, and I could no longer count on Mary, my frequent companion. There was no romance on the horizon, no small grandchild to give me a handmade, crayon-drawn paper heart. Because I was a reading specialist and didn’t have a regular class, I had no handful of “teacher” cards.

Thoughts of going home to a lonely, empty house were so depressing, I stopped at the mall. Nothing captured my attention, and I wandered around in a daze. Enticing smells wafted to me as I passed a large restaurant, which reminded me that I was hungry, but I didn’t have the guts to go in by myself. I considered going to the movies, but again, I couldn’t face going alone.

Feeling there was no place left to go, I went home. The house was dark as I pulled into the driveway, but the automatic light came on as I approached the house. I gathered the mail from my mailbox, and clutching it in one hand, opened the storm door with the other.

On the step between the doors was a long, slender package wrapped in green tissue: I could hardly wait to open the wrapping.

Once inside the house, I unwrapped the paper to reveal a single perfect, long-stemmed red rose. Its beauty and sweet scent reminded me of the dozen red roses Ray had given me so long ago. I tore through the wrappings looking for the card, but there wasn’t one. I looked for a clue to the sender’s identity, but came up empty-handed.

After a while, I called my son and daughter, but neither of them knew anything about the rose. “You must have a secret admirer,” my son said. “There’s a guy out there who’s interested in you.”

My daughter’s explanation was less encouraging. “The florist may have delivered it to the wrong house.”

“There was no address on the package,” I told her. “It must have been left in person.”

“Then it was probably a neighbor—someone who wanted to thank you for a favor.”

The possibility sounded logical, and I racked my brain trying to decide if I had done anything special for one of my neighbors. When nothing came to mind, I began to mull over my son’s suggestion. I had to admit, the idea of a secret admirer intrigued me. Being a romantic at heart and having a writer’s imagination, I spent the rest of the evening weaving all kinds of plots around the idea. In fact, I became so absorbed, I didn’t remember this was a day I’d wanted to forget.

I never did learn who brought me the rose, but I knew it had to be a good friend. A friend who cheered me by letting me know someone cared, yet wise enough to give me something to wonder about.

Since then, starting with the young teacher who didn’t get the hoped-for proposal, I’ve given an anonymous rose to many friends in pain. I hope each one has brought as much comfort as the one that I received brought me.

Polly Moran

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