WRITTEN BY JAN SNOOK
Sometimes it takes an outsider to offer a whole new perspective…
“Oh good, there you are.”
The ward sister smiled as Alison hurried towards the nursing station.
“Sorry I’m late,” Alison said, pinning her watch on to her staff-nurse’s uniform.
“Don’t worry. I thought maybe Ben had been spoiling you with breakfast in bed for Valentine’s Day.”
“Oh that.” Her voice had come out rather flat, Alison realised, and she made a conscious effort to sound cheerful. “Ben doesn’t believe in it. Says it’s just an invention of the card companies to make money. And in a way he’s right, of course,” she added defensively. “He says if you really love someone you should show them all the time, not just one day a year.”
The ward sister raised her eyebrows
“Well, he’s got a point. Anyway, we must crack on. Could you start with Mr Potter? His wife’s with him. Now there’s devotion!”
Alison collected the equipment and went to the side room where Mrs Potter was sitting at her husband’s bedside, stroking his hand and talking quietly. She looked up as Alison entered.
“He looks a bit brighter today,” Mrs Potter said happily.
Alison looked down at Mr Potter’s grey face, his jaw slack but his eyes fixed on his wife’s face. He looked anything but bright.
“Excellent, I’ll just do his obs then,” Alison said cheerfully, starting to take his blood pressure. Her eye was caught by a large card featuring a red satin heart on his locker.
Mrs Potter followed her gaze.
“We were childhood sweethearts,” she confided. “That will be the sixtieth Valentine card I’ve sent him.” She paused. “Of course, he may never be able to write me a card again, or even say he loves me, but I know he does. We’re together, and that’s all that matters.”
The woman sighed again, but more in contentment than regret.
“All of this,” she waved a hand round the hospital bed, “puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it?”
Alison took the patient’s temperature and checked his notes. When she left the room, the couple were still gazing at each other.
The image of Mr and Mrs Potter stayed with Alison for the rest of the day, lifting her spirits. Here she was, young and healthy, with a husband who loved her. Did it matter if he wasn’t a romantic? Not in the slightest.
At the end of her shift Alison went to put on her coat, then, on impulse, popped in to say goodbye to Mr and Mrs Potter.
As Alison opened her front door, she was assailed by a delicious smell of cooking. Her husband met her in the hall, wearing an apron and holding out a glass of champagne. Realising her mouth was open in surprise, she shut it quickly.
“Thank you,” she said, taking the glass, and glancing in at the open door to the dining-room. “The table looks very elegant,” she commented.
“Come and sit down,” Ben said, leading her into the sitting-room. “The dinner will be another few minutes.”
A large red envelope with her name on it was propped up on the mantelpiece, along with a vase of red roses.
“But you said you didn’t believe in Valentine’s Day…?” Alison began.
Ben took a sip of champagne
“I know. I suppose I was feeling a bit guilty when I got to work this morning – I mean, you did look rather disappointed – so, I told my boss what I’d said, about how if you love someone you should make a fuss of them all the time, not just once a year. And he agreed with me.”
“Oh.” Alison frowned. “But then…?”
“He asked me if I did.”
“Did make a fuss of you all the time. And I realised I don’t. When did I last buy you flowers? Or chocolates? You get so many from your patients that I don’t bother, but I should. I’ll probably never make the fuss of you that you deserve, but I’m going to try. Starting right now.
“So,” he raised his glass, “to a change of heart. And Happy Valentine’s Day!”