“Why don’t you come to dinner on Tuesday?” Kit asked. “I’m making my famous beef Wellington.”
“Yes. I have a clever twist.”
“Do you want my recipe?”
“Good grief, no. And besides, isn’t Tuesday Valentine’s Day? Shouldn’t you and Larry be alone?”
“You would be the twist. You don’t have plans, do you?”
“Nothing special. Liam Neeson suggested we might do something, but I don’t—”
“Ah, Val, I don’t want you to be alone.”
“I just told you, Liam Neeson—”
“Then bring him along.”
“He’s Irish; he probably doesn’t like English cooking.”
“Like he should be so fussy.”
“So, whatcha doing on Tuesday, Pankowski? I’m in the mood for a humongous steak. Wanna join me?”
“Er, Tom, Tuesday is Valentine’s day.”
“Is it? So what? Any law says I can’t have dinner with my best salesman on Valentine’s Day?”
“First, I am your only salesman; second, I’m actually a woman; and third . . .” I couldn’t think of a third.
“I’m waiting. What’s third?”
“Pierce Brosnan suggested we might do something.”
“Okay. Forget it. I offered. Who’s this Pierce Bossman, anyway?”
“Geez. He’s a handsome actor who played James Bond, for heaven’s sake.”
“Oh, right. That makes sense.”
“Valerie, William Stuckey and I are wondering what you are doing on Tuesday. We were thinking of driving down to Chicago and taking you out to dinner. Somewhere romantic.”
“Aw, Mom, that’s so sweet. But . . .” What could I say? That if my mother was planning to drive, it would be Easter by the time she got here? Not to mention that spending V-day with my mother and her husband was about as romantic as spending the dreaded day down a coal mine. Literally, digging for coal. “I already have plans, and I’m so busy at work I can’t take time—”
“Okay. Then you have fun.”
That was it? No interrogation, no cross-examination, no insisting I send her a detailed schedule of my evening?
Fourth (and final) invite:
“Hey Val, one of my friends scored some tickets to see Pokey LaFarge Tuesday night. We got one extra. Wanna come with us? It’ll be fun.”
“Pokey who?” I turned in my chair to face Billie, the twentysomething kid I share my office space with.
“Pokey LaFarge.” She whipped out her phone and produced a picture of Pokey. “You know, a little jazzy, all-American. He’s sick.”
“Okay, cool. You’d really like him. And before you say no, remember, it’s Valentine’s Day, and if you don’t have any plans—”
“George Clooney suggested we might do something.”
“He’s married, Val,” she said earnestly. Like that would be a problem.
On my way home from work, I stopped at the Gung Ho Chinese restaurant and picked up the Gung Ho special. Then, I enjoyed my dinner with a glass of pinot grigio and watched Love Actually for the millionth time. And as always, I got a lump in my throat over poor Emma Thompson dealing with her cheating spouse. My phone rang several times, but I let the calls go to voice mail. I’d deal with Liam, Pierce, and George tomorrow.
Best Valentine’s Day ever.