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The Heart of a Woman 2He and Annie always made a big ordeal over Valentine’s Day. It was the anniversary of their first date, the day he took her skating when she was only seven. Twenty years ago. Precisely twenty years ago today. Worry creased his brow and he removed the box from his pocket and slowly opened the lid. Inside was a delicate gold chain and attached was a pendant; a heart shaped crystal pendant. He thrust the box at his father for his approval and asked, “Do you remember, Dad?”Patrick Reed stared at the brilliance of lights that danced through the many facets of the jewelry piece. He nodded and blinked back tears. James sighed heavily. “I was eighteen when you had that talk with me,” he recalled aloud. “Annie was so pissed off with me and I couldn’t even begin to understand why,” he laughed softly. “She caught me dead to rights with Sophie Mcguire under the bleachers. I still don’t know what I was thinking to this day,” he said shaking his head in wonder. Mr. Reed nodded in agreement with his son’s recollection.”I came home and told you what had happened and how Annie wanted to break-up with me. You sat me down and told me that story about women,” he recalled wistfully. “You told me how when God made man, He gave man a heart shaped just like this one, but when He made woman, He separated the two parts and gave one half to women. You said that was why a human heart doesn’t look like this,” he said poking one finger at the crystal pendant.”You explained how people have two hearts. One made of flesh and one made of spirit. The spiritual heart looks just like this one, because it is a replica of man’s original heart; two pieces joined as one.””That’s right, son. I’m glad you remembered,” Patrick interjected. He was proud of James. James was the best part of himself. All of the good things and none of the bad.”You said something else that stuck with me that day, Dad,” James continued slowly. “You said that a woman like Annie has a spiritual heart that is as delicate as crystal and just as precious. You said if you break a woman’s heart it will shatter into pieces and it might never be whole again. If that happens, you said it would kill her spirit. I never forgot that, Dad. That’s why I had this little crystal heart made for Annie. I didn’t get a chance to give it to her this morning,” James said sounding forlorn. He snapped the box shut and slipped it back inside his coat pocket.”You’ll get your chance to give it to her, son,” Patrick replied firmly. He patted his son’s shoulder to console him.”It’s our anniversary today. Twenty years ago, Valentine’s Day. Do you believe that, Dad?” James asked quietly shaking his head in wonder.”I was just thinking about that day,” Mr. Reed said with a smile of fondness. “I wish Annie’s mom was here right now,” James said. “I appreciate you coming. I don’t know what Annie and I would have done without you all these years.””Wild horses couldn’t have stopped me,” Mr. Reed chuckled softly. “I promised Virginia the day she died that I’d see to it you take good care of Annie. You’ve done good up until now, son. No reason for worry at this stage of the game.”An unfamiliar figure came padding down the hall at a quick pace. “Mr. Reed?” the man called in greeting. It was a doctor with a clipboard in his hand.Both Patrick and James came to their feet. “Yes,” they answered as one voice. “I’m James Reed, Annie’s husband,” James explained extending a hand. “This is my father, Patrick Reed.”The doctor smiled whimsically. “Nice to meet you both Mr. Reeds,” he shrugged shaking hands with both men in turn. “I’m sorry we kept you waiting so long, but we’ve been pretty busy with your wife, alsancak escort Mr. Reed,” he offered apologetically. “How’s she doing?” Patrick asked with anxious concern.”Quite well, right now, Mr. Reed,” the doctor answered with furrowed brow. “We were pretty concerned for a while, but so far, everything has checked out reasonably well. You can go in and see her in just a few minutes. She’s been asking for you both, but I want to caution you before you see her. Mrs. Reed has a pretty extensive medical history and it puts her at high risk right now. Mostly, we are dealing with the diabetic complications. Her heart is strong and she’s doing well in that respect,” he explained.”What kind of diabetic complications?” James asked sounding confused. “Annie’s never had any real problems with her diabetes before.””That’s why there is really no cause for alarm at this point,” the doctor nodded in agreement. “Annie has suffered some slight k**ney damage due to the diabetes. She’s in a mild state of ketoacidosis. Has your wife been dieting lately?” he asked. James shook his head. “How about exercising excessively?” he asked cocking his head to one side. “Sometimes, activity can bring this on,” he said with a frown. James thought for a moment before answering. “I don’t think so. She has been doing something in her old room,” he noted. “She won’t let me go in there, so I’m not really sure.””Well, it isn’t that important right now. We’re going to keep her here for a couple of days just to make sure she’s stabilized. I’ll have a talk with her before we let her go home. Try to head off any problems for the next few months,” the doctor said glancing at the clipboard one last time. James and his father exchanged puzzled looks. “Why for the next few months, doctor?” James asked.”Well, five months anyway,” the doctor said with a shrug, “Just until we can get that baby here safely.”James’ face went ashen as he drew in a deep breath. “Baby! What baby?” he asked in disbelief. He gripped his father’s arm to steady himself from the shock of the doctor’s last statement.The doctor arched an eyebrow. “She didn’t tell you?” he asked. James shook his head slowly. “Annie is pregnant, Mr. Reed,” he said firmly. “With her medical history, it makes the pregnancy high risk to both her and the c***d. That may be why she didn’t say anything,” the doctor conjectured.”You better sit down, son,” Patrick advised while guiding his son down into his seat again. “I’ll get you some water,” he offered.James’ face broke into a wide grin. “Forget water, Dad! Let’s break out some champagne!” he howled with glee.”The only celebrating your wife is going to be doing is in bed, Mr. Reed,” the doctor cautioned again.James nodded briskly in agreement. “Can we see her?” he asked with excitement.”I think you better before we have to get another bed to put you in,” the doctor laughed. “Go ahead, son!” Patrick urged. “I’ll just wait here and talk with the doctor a little more. You go see Annie and I’ll be there in a minute.”James hurried down the hall towards Annie’s room. He paused outside the door to compose himself before entering. On the exterior, he was cool and calm when he pushed the door open and stepped quietly inside. Annie was resting, napping from the exhaustion of being poked and prodded by a gang of medical staff. James stood at her bedside and slipped her hand between his own. Her eyes fluttered open. “Hi,” she said weakly.”Hi yourself!” James replied smiling down at her. “How are you feeling?””Tired. But, other than that, fine,” she replied. “Where’s Dad?” she asked, suddenly aware that Patrick was not konak escort present.”He’s out in the hall with your doctor. He thought we should have a minute alone,” James explained. “I think he’s trying to become accustomed to the idea of being a granddad,” James said with a grin.”They told you,” Annie said flatly with disappointment. James nodded, still grinning. “It was supposed to be a surprise. For Valentine’s,” Annie said sadly. “Oh, it was a surprise alright!” James chuckled. “Are you happy?” Annie asked.James leaned down and kissed her lips gently. “Ecstatic!” he whispered. “It’s the best anniversary present ever, Annie. It puts mine to shame,” he said as he withdrew the gift box from his pocket and placed it in her hands. Annie’s eyes widened with excitement. “Go ahead. Open it!” James urged.Annie gasped with pleasure at the sight of the delicate necklace. “Oh, James! It’s beautiful!” she breathed in awe. “It reminds me of the story Dad told you. The one you told me when you asked me to your senior prom,” she said with delight.”That’s why I had it made for you,” James said softly. “It reminds me of how lucky I am that you forgave me for cheating on you. I’ll never break your heart again, Annie. I promise.” He gave her another soft kiss to seal his promise.”Thank you, James. The necklace is wonderful, but your promise means more to me than you can imagine,” Annie replied. “I don’t know why you’ve put up with me all these years. I ruin everything by getting sick all the time,” she said with a discontented pout. “Look at how many things you’ve missed out on because of me.””You haven’t made me miss a thing, Annie. I’ve never been happier than when I’m with you. And, now, we’re going to be baby-makes-three!” James said with a small laugh. “I hope it’s a little girl and she’s just like you!””No, James!” Annie chided. She placed his hand on her belly and covered it with her own. “It’s boy. I’m sure of it. A son, just like his father. You mark my words, Mr. Reed. We’re going to name him James Patrick Reed the third, and he will be the spitting image of his father. And, his grandfather!” she added with a contented smile.”We’ll see,” James said with a wink.”Did you see my room?” Annie asked. James shook his head looking puzzled. “That’s what I’ve been doing the past few weeks. Take a look at it when you get home. I was going to show you the room as part of your anniversary present,” she said with a frown.”Okay, Mrs. Reed. I’ll have a look when I get home. But, for now, you better get some rest. Dad and I will be back in the morning. Can I bring you anything?” he asked.”Yeah! Dill pickles and a chocolate milkshake,” she replied. “I’m just k**ding. No, I don’t need anything. Now, go home and get out of my hair,” she said, shooing him towards the door.James followed his father back to the street where they lived. He parked in front of the house where Annie grew up; the same house where their c***d would now grow up. He watched the tail lights of his father’s truck as they continued up the road to his own old c***dhood home. Satisfied that Patrick had made it home safely, he climbed the front steps and inserted the key in the front door. He wiped his feet on the welcome mat outside before he entered the house. He flipped the switch on the wall and soft lights illuminated the living room. He took off his coat and boots and padded in his stocking feet to the closed door that once was Annie’s room. He swung the door open and flipped on the light. His jaw went slack at the sight.The room was freshly painted a deep baby-blue tone, accented with rich purples and greens. On one wall göztepe escort stood his old crib, freshly painted with a new mattress and layette. A mobile hung over the crib. It was one of clear crystal hearts that reflected and cast a rainbow prism of dancing lights on the walls and ceiling. He recognized Mrs. McPherson’s old rocker that used to sit on the front porch when she was still alive. He hadn’t even noticed it was missing until now. An over-sized plush white teddy-bear filled the seat. Over the back of it was d****d a hand-crocheted throw. Blue and purple to match the room. He paused to feel of it and it was soft and fuzzy; fit for a newborn son.His old toy-box that had been stored in the attic of his father’s home now graced one wall. He wandered over and lifted the lid. It was filled with wooden building blocks, and what looked to be an old train set. Vaguely, he recognized it as one of his own toys. He had all but forgotten how his father used to help him set the tracks all around the base of the tree at Christmas time. He smiled at the memory.In one corner, was indeed, an ornamental tree. It was permanently affixed to the wooden floor. Fully decorated with blue lights and silver ornaments, it was a c***d’s dream come true. It promised Christmas every day of the year.The most astonishing feature was a large wall filled with framed pastel drawings. Each one was carefully arranged and they depicted all the memories he and Annie had shared over the past twenty years together. It began with one likeness of the two of them skating on the lake as c***dren. The last one was of Annie. She was gazing down with her hands gently caressing her swollen belly. A soft, secretive smile curved her lips. It was a genuine masterpiece.James picked up the white teddy-bear and sat down heavily in the old rocker. He wanted nothing more than to sit a while and drink in the atmosphere of the new nursery. Annie. It was all so…Annie.**********The phone rang. Patrick Reed struggled to his feet with the help of a well-used walker and shuffled across the floor. Each step was agonizingly slow and deliberate. His hair was as white as the fresh fallen snow outside. One gnarled and wrinkled old hand reached for the receiver. “Hello?” he said gruffly. “Dad? Can you hear me?” James asked in a loud voice. Mr. Reed was hard of hearing, but his mind was still sharp as a tack.The old man grunted in response. “Yes, son. I can hear you,” he replied. “What’s wrong? It isn’t anything with Jamie is it?” he growled a bit impatiently. His hips ached and his knees felt like jello with the effort of walking.”No, Dad. Nothing’s wrong. Everything is just fine. I wanted to call and remind you that Jamie and I are bringing dinner over tonight,” James said into the receiver as he motioned for his secretary to close his office door. “I remembered, son. No need to call and remind me. It’s Valentine’s Day. I wouldn’t forget something like that,” the old man sighed. “We may be running a little late, Dad,” James informed him. “And, we might be bringing another guest. You won’t mind that will you, Dad?” he asked sounding cautious.”Oh?” Patrick replied. “No. The more the merrier, I guess. Who’s the guest, son?” “Well, it’s a friend of Jamie’s. You see, Dad, I got a call from Mrs. Simmons today, the principal at Jamie’s school. Jamie got into a little tussle today with some boys. Mrs. Simmons said he has a black eye, a real shiner, but he’s fine otherwise,” James said with a chuckle.”That’s good. What was the fight about?” Patrick asked.”Well, there’s this little new girl at school. Her name is Angie McMichael. Apparently, some of the older boys were picking on her and Jamie took her side. He wants me to go by her house this afternoon and ask her parents if she can go skating with him this weekend,” James explained. “I told him I was okay with that.”The old man grunted again. “That’s fine, son. Just fine. You bring Angie along to dinner. I want to meet the next Mrs. Reed.”

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