I'm rushing around the kitchen, swiping a paper towel over spilled juice, picking up errant socks and shoes, and hustling Finn to get dressed for school.
Greta, always impatient to get outside well before the bus is scheduled to arrive, is already at the end of the driveway, looking expectantly through the door, waiting for me.
I bustle over to the fridge and start throwing items into Finn's lunchbox: a slightly bruised apple, the last cheese stick, pepperoni. Gotta get to the supermarket today, I think.
I'm distractedly gathering up Finn's snow pants and boots when I remember: Valentine's Day. Crap. I sit Finn down at the kitchen table, root around for a marker, and instruct him to sign his name on the nine little cards he needs for his class. A quick glance at the clock reminds me that the bus will be here any minute and Greta is probably wondering where I am. She doesn't like to wait for the bus alone.
As I'm slipping my arm into the sleeve of my jacket I look outside, expecting to see Greta's distraught face.
Instead I see Steve bent over her, giving her a kiss on the top of her head. I forgot he was still here. Usually he has left for work by now.
Opening the door a crack, I hear Greta giggle as Steve says, "Bonus kisses, today. Valentine's kisses," and gives her a peck on both cheeks. He wraps her in a bear hug, and says, "I love you so much."
I stop, frozen in place. For the first time in a long time, I look at my husband. I really see him. I see his strong, capable arms wrap around our daughter, how the lines around his eyes crinkle up as he laughs.
Man, he looks good, I think.
My mind pings back to twenty years ago, when I was working at my very first real job. We were having a staff meeting; the fledgling company only had forty or so employees, mostly young, all ambitious. That morning the President was giving a little speech, and we all stood in a circle, listening. As my eyes swung around the circle, looking at all of us gathered in one place, my gaze froze on a tall, good-looking man. Hmmmm, he's new, I mused. I've never noticed him before. I know I would have remembered. I surreptitiously examined him out of the corner of my eye: dark hair, flashing green eyes, broad shouldered. Handsome. Man, he looks good, I thought.
The bus rumbles to the end of the driveway, and Greta squirms out of Steve's embrace. As she jogs away, her backpack bouncing up and down, I call out to her: I love you! Have a good day! She settles into a window seat, wipes away the fog on the glass with her palm and gives us a little wave as the bus pulls away.
Steve ambles up to where I'm standing on the porch, my jacket still only half on. Bonus kisses for you, too, he says with an impish grin, placing one strong hand under my chin and tilting my face up for a kiss.
And I feel it, that little flip-flop in my stomach I felt all those years ago, when I first saw him from across the room. That little flutter in my gut that goes missing so much of the time these days, as we get tangled in the wires of day-to-day life.
He walks to his car, and I break from my reverie long enough to say, "I love you! Have a good day!" He smiles at me through the windshield, then puts the car in reverse and backs out of the driveway.
I watch him pull away, and whisper out loud the words that are resting on my heart: I more than love you. You're my everything.
Finn calls to me from inside: "I all done, Momma!"
I place my hand on my fluttering stomach, smile to myself, and head back inside.